If you decide to sell a rental property you must be aware of the rights of your current tenants. If you have a legal and binding contract, you have to be careful to follow the law when you sell the property. Do not assume that because the property changes hands, the tenants lose their rights to remain in the property.
Definition of a Sitting Tenant
When you own a property and rent to someone else, and then you sell that property while it is still under contract to your tenants, they have the right to remain in that property. The term for that is "sitting tenant" in the United Kingdom. In the United States the term refers to any tenant who occupies a property and pays rent, usually under a lease agreement, whether written or oral. The term "squatters" would apply to those who do not have the right to remain on the property either because they have been evicted or the landlord has chosen not to renew their lease or term of tenancy.
Rights of Tenants During Foreclosure
One problem that faces some tenants is losing their homes in the event of foreclosure. At least one state has approved legislation that guarantees tenants the right to stay in the property during foreclosure proceedings. It also dictates that when the property is sold, the new owner buys both the property and the tenants who are living in the property. These new owners are required by law to adhere to the original lease agreement even though the title fo the property is no longer with the original landlord.
The majority of states have a Landlord Tenant Code that details the rights of both landlords and tenants. The lease agreement is a written contract that allows the protection of rent for a specific time period during which the landlord is not allowed to raise the rent except in extenuating circumstances--in other words, if there is a substantial increase in expenses that would make it a financial hardship for the landlord to continue renting the property at the current rent. However, they cannot raise the rent without giving the tenant ample notice, usually at least 60 days.
Tenants who are on a month-to-month lease do not have rent protection and usually pay a higher rent than those who sign a lease for a year or more. Some landlords do have a month-to-month lease that identifies the provisions of the rent, but in most cases the lease only states the rent is a monthly rent and subject to change at any time with a maximum of 30 days' notice.
Other Rights of a Sitting Tenant
In addition to the right to rent protection and remaining free from eviction if the landlord sells the property or it goes into foreclosure, a sitting tenant is entitled to protections including privacy, peace and quiet, freedom from unannounced invasions from the landlord at inopportune times and expectations of proper upkeep of the property. As long as the tenant legally remains in a property, he should not have to endure inconveniences that would not befall him if he were a homeowner.
Obligations to the Landlord
As a tenant, you also have obligations to the landlord that are separate from your obligation to pay your rent. Some of those obligations include keeping the property neat and clean, notifying the landlord of any necessary repairs, keeping noise at a reasonable level and making sure you don't do anything to lessen the value of the property or put unnecessary financial strain on the landlord.