Contractual protection for renters in a house that might be sold?
April 19, 2010 8:46 AM   Subscribe

We're interested in renting a small house in CA as our primary residence. We're suspicious that the owners/agents are just trying to wait out the market before selling. Is there any meaningful protection that guarantees a minimum stay in the property that can be put into a rental contract/lease, irrespective of whether the owners receive an offer on the house?
posted by lalochezia to Law & Government (8 answers total)
Page 48 of the CA Tenant's Rights booklet says that if it is a lease, not a month-to-month, the landlord must continue to rent to you until the end of the lease period. He is not obligated to renew your lease, so you would have to negotiate a long lease upfront.

The rules change if the property is sold in foreclosure instead of a voluntary normal sale, but even then you get 60 days notice.
posted by slow graffiti at 9:20 AM on April 19, 2010

Can't you make the lease for 12 or 24 months or whatever?
posted by ish__ at 9:20 AM on April 19, 2010

In addition to what slow graffiti said, certain towns and cities are known for having tenant-friendly regulations, and if you are really concerned about your rights as a tenant, I'd suggest seeking out one of those towns if you can. You don't say where in California you are looking. Examples of this would be Berkeley in the Bay Area or Santa Monica in the LA area.
posted by ambrosia at 9:28 AM on April 19, 2010

What counties are you looking in? The laws surrounding landlord-tenant relations change drastically as you cross city and county borders in California.

However, even the towns that have notoriously tenant-friendly rental regulations have a particular loophole: The owner move-in eviction. Different cities handle the details differently, but virtually all of them do allow someone to purchase a tenant-occupied property, and then evict the tenants -- often even if that means breaking a lease. There are restrictions that vary by locality, to try to prevent professional landlords from abusing this, and defining how much notice a tenant must be given and how long the landlord needs to live in the place before it can go back on the rental market.

Ultimately, though, if someone buys your rented house because they want to live in it themselves, there is very little that you as a tenant can do but move out (though, I'm sure there are ways to draw the process out). Any protection that you do have is going to come from the laws of whatever county and city the house is in.
posted by toxic at 12:48 PM on April 19, 2010

Another factor to consider: in some places, a landlord cannot sell a property while a valid lease is in place, but he can put it on the market. So long as adequate notice is given (usually 24-48 hours, depending on your location), the landlord can show the house to prospective buyers. That means you might spend the last 6-9 months of your lease with a steady stream of strangers going through your house to look at it. It's no picnic; you might seek contractual protection against a situation like this if the law doesn't already provide it.

IANAL. TINLA. It might be worth seeking some, however.
posted by jingzuo at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2010

The house is in Claremont, Los Angeles County, CA.
posted by lalochezia at 1:45 PM on April 19, 2010

Short answer: Call the LA County Department of Consumer Affairs at 1-800-593-8222. You might also want to call the LA housing board hotline at 1-866-557-RENT.

Long answer: according to the LA county municipal code, a landlord can evict you for one of 12 reasons. One of them is "The landlord seeks in good faith to recover possession of the rental unit for use and occupancy of the rental unit by the landlord or the landlord’s spouse, children, parents, grandparents, grandchildren, brother, sister, father-in-law, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother-in-law, or sister-in-law;"

If you've lived there less than one year, your (new) landlord is likely only required to give you 30 days notice.
posted by toxic at 2:41 PM on April 19, 2010

Thanks everyone - all answers good, but toxic's last one speaks to exactly what I wanted to know, particularly w/links to the municipal code.
posted by lalochezia at 3:30 PM on April 19, 2010

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