Landlord putting apartment on the market
September 28, 2014 11:02 PM   Subscribe

The owner of the condo I'm renting has informed me that he's putting it on the market, and had a realtor check out the place and talk to me. He thinks any future buyer will likely be a professional real estate buyer, who will continue with the lease arrangement I currently have, but there's no assurance that this will be the case. Meanwhile, another apartment has opened up in the same complex, a complex which I love. Do I stay or move?

The condo complex is perfect for my needs - location is great, it's hassle-free in all kinds of ways, has a gym that's as good as a professional gym I'd pay money for, and is the quietest place I've ever lived. I'd rather not move from here and I have enough apartment horror stories that I know how rare a truly great living arrangement can be. So it bums me out that the owner (a regular, nice guy) is starting to put it on the market. There are big development grants on my block and a Whole Foods opening up across the street in 2 months, so it's an attractive time for buyers. He thinks that most potential buyers will be real estate professionals, and says that's historically been the case for this complex. (I don't know if that's actually true.) In such a situation, he believes that I can continue living here (though there's no guarantee my rent won't increase.) His realtor also says that it will likely sell quickly after the showings start, and that most are sold within 2 weeks.

So I'm in a precarious place where maybe I should start looking at other places to live, but maybe I should wait and see what happens.

Meanwhile, on craigslist there's a condo with the exact same layout and look as the place I'm currently living, in the exact same complex. From the pictures it even looks a little nicer. Basically it's like not moving at all. It's a few hundred dollars more monthly rent, though, in a place that's already pretty pricey. I called and will be checking out that place tomorrow.

So: assuming I like that place, do I negotiate and play hardball, and try to lower that rent down to the same rent I'm currently paying? And if that works, do I move? If it doesn't work, do I still move? Or do I hedge my bets, potentially let that apartment go, and see what happens with the apartment I'm currently living in?
posted by naju to Home & Garden (27 answers total)
Response by poster: Forgot to mention: my current lease ends in January.
posted by naju at 11:03 PM on September 28, 2014

If apartments in your complex rarely pop up, I would move. Pay absolutely no attention to what your current landlord and real estate agent are telling you as they have no clue who's going to buy it. Same thing happened to me, with the same assurances - I got kicked out of the place.
posted by hazyjane at 11:12 PM on September 28, 2014 [18 favorites]

Response by poster: Yeah, it is a rare event to see an apartment in this complex up for rent. It's almost entirely condo owners living here, with a few scattered renters.
posted by naju at 11:14 PM on September 28, 2014

(though there's no guarantee my rent won't increase.)

An identical apartment in your complex is renting for a few hundred dollars more? I'd say that's more like a guarantee that your rent will increase.
posted by acidic at 11:18 PM on September 28, 2014 [16 favorites]

This has happened to two people I know in New York City in the last year. Neither of them is currently living in the apartment in question, for reasons outside their control.

You should at least start mentally preparing yourself for the fact that you're going to be moving soon. Or perhaps putting up with a large rent increase. I agree with acidic -- if market rates are higher in your area (especially within the same complex), you should assume your rent will soon match those.
posted by Sara C. at 11:39 PM on September 28, 2014

I agree with acidic. If someone buys your apartment and other units in your complex are renting for a few hundred dollars more per month, expect your rent to increase at the earliest opportunity.

If you really like where you are now.. is there any way you can put together enough to make an offer on it?
posted by Nerd of the North at 11:40 PM on September 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't think I understand what you're trying to accomplish here. Are you trying to lock yourself into a lease to stave off a rent increase that might result from the sale of the building?

If so, why don't you ask your landlord to let you sign a new written lease for the apartment you're currently in? Also, does rent control apply to you? I've been in an apartment in a major city in California for more than a year and by law the landlord cannot raise my rent over a certain amount more than once a year. This would be true even if there were new ownership.
posted by phaedon at 11:48 PM on September 28, 2014

Response by poster: phaedon - the building isn't being sold; just my particular condo unit within the building, which is currently owned by an individual condo owner. He wouldn't be on board with signing a new lease, given that he's trying to sell and might sell to someone who wants to live here.

From what I've read, condominiums are exempt from the rent control laws in my city (San Jose) so I don't think that is a consideration.

Basically my question boils down to: do I stick around in the hope that I can continue living here, or do I move to the other identical unit for a few hundred dollars more in rent?
posted by naju at 12:03 AM on September 29, 2014


You love the complex, and if it's only a couple hundred enough to otherwise tick your boxes, do it. There is literally no guarantee whomever buys will be an investor or that your rent will stay the same. In fact, with an identical comp on the market for more, it's likely an investor would bump your rate up to match in January.

Look around, first, and make sure there aren't complexes that are the same price as you're paying now (check both before and after the increase) and comparable quality, but assuming you like where you're at, assume you've been given notice and plan accordingly.
posted by disillusioned at 12:14 AM on September 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would say to play it safe and go for the new place. At least you'll have some peace of mind. Your other 2 choices are to stay and get kicked out or stay, be nervous about getting kicked out for months and then pay more rent than whatever this new place is charging.
posted by bleep at 12:38 AM on September 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, do move. You have no assurance that the new owner will want to rent and not live there themselves. Since they are selling, you may even be able to get out of your lease early without penalty.
posted by myselfasme at 1:00 AM on September 29, 2014

Have you brought all this up with your current landlord? "Hey, I'm worried that whomever you sell to will kick me out, and there's this other apartment opening up. I mean, I'd much rather stay, but if I don't have a guarantee..." He might be more willing to tell any prospective buyers, "I have a tenant, and they're great, but they might be about to move, so you should sign a lease with them now."
posted by Etrigan at 4:25 AM on September 29, 2014

I would also add looking into whether you are in a position to buy. The landlord might be willing to knock money off the price he's looking for for the convenience (though less likely if it's a very popular block as you say.)

I know my previous flat, my landlord repeatedly offered to sell it to me for the sake of convenience!
posted by Wysawyg at 5:20 AM on September 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think you should move. I think people can get themselves in trouble when they see the writing on the wall but just assume things will work out because they want them too.

It sounds like your landlord likes you, but he's trying to sell. He's not going to refuse a good offer because the new owner plans on living there.

There's no garuntee even if it is bought for renting that the new owner will want you to stay. To you it may seem like a great deal to already have a renter in place but the new owner doesn't know you, may find the inconvienence of renting to someone who is used to things working a certain way more annoyance than its worth, and prefer someone who has been vetted by them. The fact you're living in a hot area means it's probably not difficult to find renters. I can't see your rent staying the same honestly, especially not if a company buys it (versus an individual).

This means you are at whims of everyone else. That kind of sucks. You have very little control.
posted by Aranquis at 5:33 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Move. That's why your landlord told you he's selling -- so that you could take action to protect yourself, like moving.

If there's any way you can put in an offer, I would do that. But if you can't, then I would just put in an application on the open apartment ASAP.
posted by rue72 at 6:04 AM on September 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Will you be able to break your current lease? You might not be able to. If he's hoping to sell to an invester, having a stable tenant is a selling point.
posted by kjs4 at 6:47 AM on September 29, 2014

Find out if your landlord will let you out of your current least a couple of months early without penalty, and move into the other apartment. Waiting around for an apartment to sell is agonizing and IME never works out in the time frame you want it to. Plus, obvsly, there is no guarantee that the new owner will want to rent it out, and asking your current landlord to include such a provision in the sale of the apartment is unreasonable for you to demand, especially if the market is as shitty there as it is pretty much everywhere else.
posted by poffin boffin at 7:18 AM on September 29, 2014

I would move. Since you say the complex is mostly owner-occupied, I would expect the new owners would be buying it for themselves.
posted by florencetnoa at 7:31 AM on September 29, 2014

Move, but ask your current landlord to help with the expenses, and forget the remainder of the lease. It will be far easier, and more profitable for him to sell an empty condo.
posted by Gungho at 8:17 AM on September 29, 2014

Well, there's no guarantee that the owner of the other condo won't sell up next year, you know? So you're only buying yourself security for the length of the new lease...
posted by mskyle at 8:31 AM on September 29, 2014

Most of your options probably involve you moving, with the real question being how voluntary that move is and how much it costs you.

Your first step should be to find your local jurisdiction's equivalent of what in DC is called the Office of the Tenant Advocate. Laws vary all over the place, but you probably have some sort of right of refusal (here in DC the applicable law is the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, or TOPA). If you are at all interested in staying exactly where you are, you should start that process now.

Even if you don't wish to buy the unit you're living in, the tenant advocacy laws in your jurisdiction may give you certain rights that could still work out in your favor. For example, in DC, if you do not desire to purchase your home, TOPA still means there are specific reporting requirements for how someone can sell the home you occupy and regulations for how much notice the sellers and buyers have to give you in order to terminate your lease*. What this means is that in DC, at least, you can sell those rights to somebody else, in exchange for cash or moving assistance or something else. If that sounds like getting paid off to move out, that's exactly what it often is.

* Your Jurisdiction Will Definitely Vary on this. In DC the only way an owner can evict a paying tenant is if the owner plans to occupy the unit, so they can't just kick you out in order to sell. The new owners have to give you 60 days notice (I think) that they plan to occupy the unit, and as a tenant you have lots of ways to drag that out, especially if they miss a deadline and have to start the paperwork over again. Check with your local tenant advocacy office now.

Also have you read the condo bylaws? There may be a restriction on investor ownership that could come into play (if such a rule is even enforceable is well above my pay grade as your fake internet not-your-lawyer guy). Your landlord may or may not actually be legally able to sell to anybody other than someone who has a good faith plan to occupy the unit, in which case your days would definitely be numbered, but the landlord would also have financial incentive to get you moved out before the place is even listed.

Also vacant units sell faster, no matter what his real estate agents tell him.
posted by fedward at 9:22 AM on September 29, 2014

Have you considered buying the unit?
posted by boo_radley at 9:34 AM on September 29, 2014

Response by poster: I'm not interested in buying - I like the place, but I have no real idea of where I'll be in the country or what I'll be up to, even a year out from now.
posted by naju at 9:45 AM on September 29, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice! It sounds like I should seriously consider moving to the other place in this complex. I just hope I can talk the price down, because a few hundred a month adds up to a few thousand over a year.
posted by naju at 9:54 AM on September 29, 2014

Chiming in to say Move. A lease is a lease is a lease.

Wish in one hand, shit in the other, which one fills up first?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:33 AM on September 29, 2014

Find out what the real estate rules are where you are. Here in NC a buyer would have to honor your lease, but would not be obligated to extend it.

If it were me, I would consider moving.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:59 PM on September 29, 2014


Unless you like to gamble/are a risk taker, and since you don't want to buy it, that is the ONLY way you can be assured of staying in that building.
posted by GeeEmm at 7:11 PM on September 29, 2014

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