Tenant Rights on Rental Property When Ownership Changes
- After the sale of the property and a change in ownership, the new landlord and tenant remain obligated to one another under the confines of the prior lease. The new landlord simply steps into the shoes of the prior landlord and the relationship between the parties exists within the same confines as the tenant's and the prior landlord.
- Though the security deposit is paid to the landlord it remains the property of the tenant at all times and the landlord may only keep it when he establishes a right to the deposit to repair damages. This holds true even when ownership changes. Upon the change of ownership the prior owner must transfer the deposit to the new owner, who then inherits all obligations to the tenant regarding the speedy return of the deposit upon termination of the lease.
- After a change in ownership, the new landlord may not change rent, except according to the lease or statutory law. In general, this may prevent the landlord from raising the rent in the middle of an existing lease simply to cover his cost of purchasing the property. However, as the lease is the ultimate authority on what rent increases are allowable, tenants should always be familiar with their leases. Nevertheless, at no time should a rent increase be retaliatory in nature or meant to punish a tenant from asserting his lawful rights to repair.
- After a change in ownership the tenant still has the right to a fit dwelling and repairs to the property and common areas made in a timely manner, including damages that occur through normal wear and tear or that predate the landlords ownership. However, just as a tenant can expect the new landlord to shoulder the same burdens as the previous landlord, the landlord is still held harmless for any damages caused to the premises by the tenant's willful or irresponsible conduct.
- When ownership changes the new landlord may not evict a tenant solely by virtue of the change in ownership. He still must abide by the existing lease and can only evict a tenant for the usual reasons, such as nonpayment of rent, when the tenant causes a serious and continuing health hazard to exist on the premises, when the tenant causes extensive and continuing physical injury to the property or a violation of some other lease procedure. Absent these, the tenant will be able to remain in the property until the completion of the lease.
- Landlord/tenant laws vary from state to state and individual rights and responsibilities following ownership changes may differ. Please contact a licensed attorney in your state for additional information.