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Tenant rights when rental property is put up for sale

Photo: old house for sale by Ron de Ruijter

If your landlord notifies you that they are selling the property, you may be worried about your living situation. Fortunately, tenants have rights when a property is being sold which they need to understand.

Do I need to move?

When you find out your landlord is selling your home (which they need to notify you of in writing), the first question that may pop into your head is, “Do I need to move out?” Unfortunately the answer isn’t black and white, there are some circumstances where you will need to move and others where you can stay. Fortunately, it’s easy to determine which circumstance applies to you.

Periodic tenancy

If you are on a periodic tenancy, your new landlord can decide whether the tenancy will continue after the sale or come to an end. For a periodic tenancy, the landlord needs to give at least 42 days written notice to end the tenancy. If the correct notice isn’t given, you don’t have to move out.

Fixed-term tenancy

If your tenancy is fixed-term, the property will be sold with the tenants and tenancy in place, meaning the landlord can’t make you move out until the term is over. The new owner will take over your tenancy agreement and serve as your new landlord. If the landlord wants to sell the house empty, both the tenant and landlord have to agree to end the fixed-term early.

What if the new owner wants to move in?

This again depends on your tenancy agreement. If the new owner wants to move in right away, your current landlord can sell the property empty only if the tenant agrees in writing to end the tenancy early. If you are on a fixed-term tenancy, you don’t have to agree to an empty sale, and the new owners will have to wait until your tenancy is over to move in. If you are on a periodic tenancy, proper notice of at least 42 days will have to be given to the tenant.

Can they change the management company?

During any tenancy the management company can change which is treated as a change in landlord. Whether the new landlord is an individual or a different company, they need to notify you of their name, their contact details and an address for service, and how the tenant is to pay the rent (for example, the new bank account number).

What is the process for open homes?

During the sale, the landlord and realtors will likely need to show the home to potential buyers. While a tenant can’t unreasonably refuse access, you can set reasonable conditions. As a tenant you have the right to refuse open houses and on-site auctions, instead requesting that viewings are by appointment only. You can also request to be present at open houses and restrict the viewings to certain days and times. Once these details are negotiated you should put them in writing to ensure that everyone is sticking to the agreed upon terms of access.

A word of advice

Don’t panic just because your landlord is selling the property you live in. As a tenant you have rights and your landlord has the responsibility to keep you informed and properly notified of changes. Take a deep breath and relax knowing that regardless of these new changes you won’t be forced out of your home without proper procedure occurring first.

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