A landlord can evict you and sell the property only if your lease contains a provision stating that you can be evicted in the case of sale. As a general rule, this provision must be in writing, and any oral agreement will be insufficient. As a result of the foreclosure spike in 2008, federal law has been written with the sole purpose of protecting renters from losing their leases.
If the lease does not contain a provision specifying that a sale would automatically terminate your lease, then nothing would change and the new owner would step in for your old landlord. The new owner then takes on all the rights and responsibilities that your previous landlord had.
Different types of leases also factor in on the tenants rights:
- Fixed-Lease Period: If the lease specifies the time period for the property lease, the tenant has the right to stay in the rental property for the specified time and/or until the end of the lease regardless of whether the landlord sells the property. Even if the landlord sells the property, the lease would survive the sale of the property and the new landlord would step in the shoes of the old landlord and take on the responsibilities and the rights of the previous landlord without having to sign a new lease with the current tenant.
- Special Lease: Some leases could contain provisions that state that a sale of the property by the landlord would automatically end the lease. If the lease contains this provision and a sale of the property does occur, the tenant would have to move out or sign a new lease with the new owner.
- Month-to-Month Lease: Under a month-to-month lease, the landlord can sell the property and also give the tenant notice to move out of the rental unit without providing a reason.
A new owner is usually bound by the existing lease and can only evict a tenant if there is a legally recognized reason for the eviction. Moreover, a new owner cannot raise the tenant’s rent in the middle of an existing lease. The landlord has an obligation to follow both the length and terms of the existing lease. Even if the new owner was not informed of existing leases, most state laws presume that the new owner should have inquired about leases or otherwise discovered them.
If the new owner or the buyer did not know about the lease, it would not be the tenant’s problem. The new owner must deal with this matter with the previous landlord. If the new owner buys the property and the lease between the tenant and the landlord did not automatically end the tenants lease upon a sale, the new owner must legally step into the shoes of the previous landlord and assume the rights and responsibilities of the previous landlord.
If you have a lease and your original or new landlord is attempting to raise you rent or evict you, the advice of an experienced landlord-tenant attorney can be extremely helpful. Due to the differences between states as to property laws, a real property attorney can also be helpful in determining what statutes guide property law in your area.