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OK to Break Your Lease If Landlord Wants to Sell?

By Andrew Lu | Last updated on

As the real estate market creeps back to life, many tenants may be wondering if they can break their lease if their landlord puts the rental property up for sale.

After all, once the property is sold, a tenant could be faced with a lot of uncertainties -- such as dealing with a new landlord who may have very different ideas about what he or she wants to do with the property.

While you may just want to pack up and look for a new place to live, your ability to break your lease in this situation is limited by the lease you signed, and by your state's landlord-tenant laws.

What Does Your Lease Say?

In general, you should first look to your lease to learn about your rights and obligations if the property is put up for sale. Some leases include a sales provision because landlords want the flexibility to make tenants move out if such an opportunity arises. Similarly, a lease may give tenants the option to find a new apartment as soon as the property is placed on the market.

However, the issue can get more difficult if your lease says nothing about the issue. Most states do not give tenants an automatic opt-out of the lease if the property is put up for sale. Instead, the lease will generally remain in effect -- just under a new landlord. This means in most cases, a tenant's original lease should be respected.

However, state laws do vary, so you will want to talk to a landlord-tenant lawyer in your jurisdiction to learn about your exact rights.

When Breaking Your Lease May Be Allowed

Even if your lease is silent about what happens if your landlord wants to sell, you may still be able to legally break your lease. For example, if your landlord violates any terms of your lease while the property is being sold -- such as by forcing you to make your apartment available every day for open houses -- you may be able to get out of your lease because of the breach of contract terms.

But before resorting to legal measures, tenants looking to break their lease may want to consider talking with their landlord first. Your concerns may be alleviated if your landlord makes it clear that the sale won't happen until the end of your lease term, that the new landlord will respect your lease, or that the sales process will not intrude on your enjoyment of your unit.

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