What are my rights with a landlord trying to sell the house I'm renting?
June 5, 2012 10:36 AM   Subscribe

I'm currently renting a house in North Carolina and the landlord has decided to try to sell it. What are my rights regarding showings, and what is my best course of action to try to fix this situation?

I've been renting the place for the past 4 months, and a couple weeks ago I was informed the landlord was considering trying to sell it. Since then I've had a total of two visits from her realtor and a total of seven showings at hours from 9:30AM to 7PM, on weekdays and weekends

Also one person came by unexpectedly without having booked a showing, during a conference call (I work from home), and one of the realtors ran over a couple of my pots of tomato plants (then handed me $10 and ran away)

Basically this is all incredibly disruptive and unwanted, and seems unreasonable given that I'm still a current tenant and the landlord wishes me to continue to be one in the case the house doesn't sell

The relevant passage from the lease seems to be the following:
Right of Entry: Landlord hereby reserves the right to enter the Premises during reasonable hours for the purpose of (1) inspecting the Premises and the Tenant's compliance with the terms of this lease; (2) making such repairs, alterations, improvements or additions thereto as the Landlord may deem appropriate; and (3) showing the Premises to prospective purchasers or tenants. Landlord shall also have the right to display "For Sale" or "For Rent" signs in a reasonable manner upon the Premises.
and from a quick googling around, it seems like there's a common law "covenant of quiet enjoyment" which would (however the heck it's understood by North Carolina courts) decide my rights regarding the situation, but it seems like most courts take "reasonableness" into consideration

My thought is essentially I could say (to the property management company/landlord) that I will be:
a) turning down requests for showings outside some pre-agreed reasonable block of time (e.g. saturday afternoons)
b) if the property is not taken off the market, I'll be exiting the lease as soon as possible, which would be end of July w/ 30 days notice
c) wanting to update the lease to specify that the house cannot be offered for sale/rent as long as the lease remains current

Any thoughts as to whether this is legal/a good idea/etc, and whether it'd make more sense to call today or wait to give them less time (to rent it out again? I'm not sure this makes sense) given that I'd prefer to simply stay in the house (without a danger of it being sold out from under me) if possible

Possibly relevant information: I have fairly good reason to believe that the asking price for the sale is at least $20k too high, and that the rental price is also relatively high and the house sat unoccupied for ~18 months before because of the owner's unwillingness to budge on price
posted by crayz to Law & Government (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
B is possible if you're not already bound to a certain time frame. And you can always ask for A & C, although given the owners predisposition to "not budging" on other matters you probably already know the possibilities of that.

IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that's the exact reason clause 3 exists. And your rental contract is just an agreement between two parties. If that agreement is no longer satisfactory to you, and the owner doesn't want to meet your demands/suggestions on A & C, then I'd just find a new place.

You can always contact an attorney if you want, but I'd guess it's well within the owners right to attempt to sell the property.
posted by Blue_Villain at 10:46 AM on June 5, 2012

Response by poster: Also just to be clear I've had zero direct interactions with the property management company or landlord regarding this - this was all just handed off to a realtor and the various potential buyers come by either with their own realtor or by themselves
posted by crayz at 10:46 AM on June 5, 2012

Response by poster: I agree the clause means that attempting to sell it is legal, my point is there's a degree of reasonableness. In the same way that the landlord is allowed to inspect it, but wouldn't be allowed to come back for inspections 4 times a week. So based on reasonableness I could restrict showings (and possibly require the landlord herself to be physically present, based on my reading)
posted by crayz at 10:49 AM on June 5, 2012

Alright, I don't really know the situation in NC, but I'm renting an apartment in PA, part of a condo, from a landlord that's trying to sell the property. After a few 'surprise' visits, I called him out on it and it turned out that the realty had the incorrect phone number on the record and were calling someone other than me to verify that they could visit at x time. You should be getting at least 24 hours' notice in non-emergency situations. It would also be reasonable to ask them to restrict visitations to business hours and weekends - 5-7 visits are totally rude.

Though this probably varies by state, I'm almost positive that if someone bought the property, the lease ownership would be passed onto them and they would have to suffer any consequences of cancelling the lease - or at least giving you a large timeframe of notice. IDK, I think you should get in your landlord's face about this, nothing to lose really
posted by MangyCarface at 11:08 AM on June 5, 2012

Generally, it's considered reasonable to have an agreement with the landlord to specify what block of time you're ok with having real estate agents come, but that depends on the relative reasonableness of both of you. If neither of you are willing to budge, then the next step would be to escalate to the court system, and that seems like a waste of time and money for both of you.

and possibly require the landlord herself to be physically present

Yeah, that's not going to happen.
posted by deanc at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2012

I had great landlords who paid me $10 each time the place was shown. This was in the 1980s. You might see if you can cut a deal for the inconvenience.
posted by jennstra at 12:09 PM on June 5, 2012

I'm currently living in an apartment that's up for sale.

Attempting to have the lease prohibit sale while you're living there is not going to fly; in fact, as a rental property, having a paying tenant is often a selling point.

As for the inconvenience: yeah, demanding actual notice is entirely reasonable. I had a realtor show up with no warning on a Sunday morning when I was in the shower, who had not called ahead to make an appointment, and I cheerfully told her to go away and slammed the door in her face, called my landlord, and informed him that this was unacceptable. My lease specifies 24 hours' notice for the landlord or his agent to enter, and this definitely isn't the kind of emergency that makes entering without warning acceptable. I also insisted on, and got, an understanding that there would be no showings before noon on weekends.
posted by Tomorrowful at 12:13 PM on June 5, 2012

You are going to have to put your foot down.

Call the management company and the realtor involved and explain that you'd like to cooperate with them, but the current situation is not going to work.

Ask for 24 hour notice (you'll still get someone calling and wheedling, but they won't be knocking on your door when you're doing your nails.)

Ask for a token payment for each showing. (My friends in Florida get $10 a showing.)

No matter what, it's going to be a PITA, and if it's really a huge issue it looks like a move is in your future.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:10 PM on June 5, 2012

Landlord hereby reserves the right to enter the Premises during reasonable hours for the purpose....

I think the landlord is violating the "reasonable hours" part of the clause.

Also it says the LANDLORD has the right to enter the premise.

I say you would be well within your rights to deny entry to the house unless the landlord were present.

Due to this I think you would have a case in discussing with your landlord that only he has the right to enter the premise to show it, but if he cannot be there you would be willing to allows others in for open houses on x and y dates.

Also, I haven't seen the rest of the contract, but even if it is the landlord, most states require 24 hour notice for non-emergencies, regardless of what the contract says (my contract says any time, and my landlord WAS showing up with no notice - but after I stated this was against the law for non-emergencies she stopped)
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:57 PM on June 5, 2012

Enforce your rights...but you'll get farther with honey than vinegar. You want to only have the property shown Saturday afternoons? Propose it to the landlord as follows:

If you're willing to only have the property shown between 11-5 on Saturdays, I will clean the property up and generally make it nice and inviting - I'll turn on interior lights, take my dirty underwear off the floor, and maybe even put something that smells yummy on the stove.

Make it a win-win (and yourself an ally rather than an adversary) and I bet you'll get a whole lot farther with them.
posted by arnicae at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would be shocked if any US jurisdiction were literal in construing the standard lease clause about Landlord's entering the premises to mean only the Landlord ever and/or only with the Landlord present. Generally speaking, the Landlord's agent--which the real estate agent showing the place most certainly is--would be authorized to enter, with the Landlord's permission, regardless of the Landlord's physical presence, even if the clause did not say verbatim "the Landlord or his agent".

You can attempt to come to an agreement with the landlord as to what "reasonable hours" and "reasonable notice" are and I think you should. The nonadversarial approaches of several posters above are probably best.

However, should you try to escalate or attempt to assert a superior position, realize that property law--even landlord-tenant law--tends to favor the property right of ownership considerably more important than the contract right of possession of the property as a tenant.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:51 PM on June 5, 2012

I moved out when I was in this situation. I bought my own house so I wouldn't ever have to deal with it again.
posted by Violet Hour at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2012

Around here it is standard, and maybe the law, that the landlord has to give notice (usually 24 hours) before entering the premises, except in case of emergency. Check your lease and see if there is any time frame. If not, it certainly wouldn't be unreasonable to ask the landlord to give you a certain amount of notice before each showing, and to restrict them to certain days or times, and to work with the real estate agent so everyone finds an acceptable compromise.

I can't believe there aren't laws that apply to this just but everywhere. It's not reasonable that some strangers can interrupt you in the middle of dinner and troop through your home with no warning. Check out tenant law in your area.
posted by catatethebird at 5:36 PM on June 5, 2012

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