Tenant Rights When a House Is Being Sold

Tenant rights before and after a home the residence they are renting is sold varies according to state laws, the reason for the sale and whether you have signed lease or rent on a month-to-month basis. Although you generally have more post-sale rights with a signed lease agreement, most tenants enjoy the same basic rights during the pre-sale listing period.

Pre-sale Rights

Under most circumstances, a landlord has the right to list rental property at any time and for any reason without prior notification. However, if the property is entering foreclosure proceedings, some state laws require that a landlord inform you. Unfortunately, for some tenants, notification will come via a 30-day to 90-day Notice to Quit, which has the same effect as an eviction notice.

Tenant rights often are clearer when it comes to showing a property to prospective buyers. Although you can't deny entry with sufficient notice, many states have tenant privacy laws that address when a landlord can enter your residence to show the property and how much prior notice is required. According to Nolo, most states that have tenant privacy rights specify either that a landlord provide reasonable notice, or mandate a specific 24-to 48-hour notification time frame.

Post-sale Rights

Once the property sells, a month-to-month tenant can be evicted after the new landlord provides the appropriate notice, which in most states is 30 days.

In contrast, unless a lease agreement includes a "right of termination" clause, a tenant with signed, valid lease agreement has a legal right to remain in the home until the lease period expires. In addition, a new landlord must honor a valid lease agreement that has an automatic renewal clause.

Tips and Advice

Review tenant rights laws for your state and review your lease agreement as soon as you find out your residence is for sale. While you should try to work with the landlord and continue paying your monthly rent in full and on time, there are options if you feel the owner is violating your privacy rights.

Start with a letter of understanding in which you ask the landlord to respect your privacy rights. If this doesn't work, follow up with a more formal and stern letter in which you outline your legal rights. As a last resort, you may have the option to sue the landlord for illegal entry in small claims court. Contact an attorney for expert advice and assistance if a lawsuit becomes necessary.