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What If My Apartment Building Gets a New Owner?

By Holly South | Last updated on

You like your apartment. In these times of crazy rent increases, you want to have the security of not having to look for a new place. But your property owner just let you know they are selling the building.

Maybe your landlord is selling your apartment building because the real estate market is great. Or maybe your old landlord decided to turn the rental property over to their kids, or maybe they passed away and have several rental properties to get rid of. Whenever an apartment building is sold or changes hands, tenants like you are right to be wary of what will happen next with their tenancy.

That answer could depend on your existing lease or your city or state's landlord-tenant laws. Here are some possible concerns you should be aware of as a renter if your apartment complex gets a new owner. This applies for renting a single-family home as well, in case you are wondering why a real estate agent put a sign outside your house.

The Law of the Lease

As with most rental conflicts, the answer to this question will probably be in your lease or rental agreement. As a general matter, you should be familiar with the terms of your current lease agreement, and you should always have a copy handy in cases like this. This is useful for other situations related to your rights as a tenant.

For most month-to-month leases, a landlord may terminate the lease as long as they provide the required written notice. Your lease should contain the standard termination requirements for both you and the current or future landlord. This could include whether the landlord has to give you a certain amount of days' notice for terminating the lease and whether they will return your security deposit or transfer it to the new owner.

Your new landlord might also want you to sign a new lease once they own your apartment building. In this case, you would want to read the new lease carefully and ensure that the terms won't affect your tenancy. Again, renters everywhere need to be familiar with the terms of their leases. It is a binding contract.

It's possible your existing lease contains a clause for termination if the property changes hands. If so, this clause will determine whether and how your lease can be terminated.

However, if your lease doesn't specifically address what happens if the rental property is transferred to a new owner and your lease term hasn't expired, neither the current nor any future landlord can terminate the lease or change any conditions (like the amount of month's rent or security deposit) without your consent until the end of your lease term. But if the lease ends, your new owner can ask you to sign new terms, like agreeing to a one-year lease or long-term lease instead of a month-to-month lease.

The Law of the Land

While your lease will normally determine what happens to you if your apartment building is sold or transferred, local or state laws might have something else to say on the matter. If your rental unit is subject to a local rent-control ordinance, you cannot face eviction or have your rent payments raised just because the unit changes hands. If the old landlord sells and the new landlord is going to convert the apartment complex to condos, however, or the owner is going to move in (i.e., in San Francisco), that might be another matter.

In general, nothing regarding your occupancy should change during or after the sale process if your building gets a new owner, but you should check the terms of your current lease first and then local landlord-tenant laws to be sure. Make sure you continue to pay your rent on time; nonpayment of rent would be a good excuse for the new owner to terminate the lease.

And, of course, you can always seek legal advice from an attorney who handles landlord-tenant disputes.

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