Tenants rights - landlord selling house, Oregon edition
January 4, 2017 1:21 AM   Subscribe

Our landlord is selling our home. She's had the realtor and photographer round, and everyone agrees on principle that (a) landlord or agent has the right to access with 24 hours notice, (b) as tenants we're paying (full) rent and expect quiet enjoyment as a result, (c) we're not going to keep the house as a show home. We've just paid Jan rent in full. Our lease expires at the end of Feb, so Feb rent is "last months rent" which our landlord already holds. So we have no ability to withhold or negotiate rent.

1. This is our home! I'm hugely stressed about the idea of random strangers walking around my home several times a week - whether I'm there or not is almost immaterial - it's just a violation of my safe place. How do I cope with that?

2. So mostly it's going to be potential buyers with buyers agents. If they steal something (clothes / jewellry / medication), who do we claim from? I've checked, and our renters insurance doesn't cover us in this scenario. Do buyers agents have insurance? Or do we just report it to the police if it happens? (And please don't tell me to put stuff out of sight - this is our home, we pay good money to live here, we are not inviting people into our home, the landlord is, we should not have to change the way we live.)

3. The property has some structural issues not evident from the photos, and is priced accordingly. The seller's agent was honest with me and said that he expected a lot of interest. What does "quiet enjoyment" mean? How many times a week is it realistic to show a place without it impacting on the tenants "quiet enjoyment" rights? What can I do if they're exceeding that? (Negotiating rent reductions is not an option - see above)

4. I kind of want to be there when someone is being shown around the place, but I appreciate that I'm not going to be able to do that (I have a bit of flexibility to work from home, but not a lot). Is there any value to me in being there? I mean, if someone is out to steal stuff then I'm probably not going to stop them. But I just have a visceral reaction to the idea of a stranger walking around my home when I'm not there, even though me being there isn't going to change anything (and I would do the sensible thing and let them walk around with their buyer's agent without me). Help me get over this.

Any other suggestions for coping with this situation would be welcomed too! Thank you in advance...
posted by finding.perdita to Home & Garden (24 answers total)
Here's this from Oregon tenant law:
Your landlord may enter the property after advance notice in order to make inspections, make necessary repairs, supply necessary services, or to show the property to prospective buyers or work people. If reasonable, you may deny your landlord permission to enter; however, you must act reasonably. Just as the landlord cannot abuse the right of access to harass you or enter at unreasonable times, you cannot withhold your permission to enter to hinder or interfere with the landlord’s exercise of his or her rights and responsibilities.
The Oregon Community Alliance of Tenants says much the same thing.

How to cope: have you spoken with your landlord about visits? You're free to ask them to take into account your schedule and wishes. If they're reasonable (i.e. things like being okay with visits in the early evening and on weekends) they're likely to be fine.

There are housing counseling agencies in Oregon you can call up to ask about how theft would be handled, and what "quiet enjoyment" means. I'm sorry I'm going to have to tell you what you don't want to hear, but if you don't want things stolen, and they're easily accessible, frankly the simplest way to avoid that is to make them inaccessible. If you're going to move anyway, then this is a good way to start packing.

You make this easier by talking with your landlord as a partner, and working things through with them. If you want to stay, this is also a good way to start off on the right foot with your future landlord.
posted by fraula at 4:52 AM on January 4, 2017 [4 favorites]

I can't help with the location-specific legal issues, but I was in this situation a couple of years ago and can share how we handled it.

We compromised with the landlord to have two open-house viewing slots per week. This meant a lot of people piling through our house at those times, but it also meant we could be at home for them (one weekday evening and one weekend afternoon), which made us feel a lot happier about the idea of strangers poking through our stuff. I don't know whether this would be an option where you are but it's worth looking into if so. We agreed that we wouldn't be keeping the house a show home, but for those viewing slots it would be very well cleaned and tidied, to a standard we wouldn't have been able to keep up 24/7 (we had a young child).

Bear in mind that it is in your landlord's interest to have you on board and accommodating of viewings. Tenants in situ can badly scupper a sale - if viewers get the impression you'll resist moving out unless evicted, or if the place looks like a hovel when viewers see it, or if the current inhabitants make pointed comments about how loud the neighbours are during viewings, it'll be tougher to sell. I am not suggesting that you do any of these things of course, but it is very much in the landlord's interest to keep you happy and on side for showing off their property rather than grudgingly permitting viewings, and you have more clout than you might think to negotiate things like reasonable viewing times.

Also, it is totally reasonable to not like the idea of strangers walking around your house, with or without you there, especially when you're not the one who's going to benefit from it. It is uncomfortable and weird. I found it a lot more reassuring to know that one of us was actually in the house any time people were there, even if we weren't plodding round all the rooms with them. (But I would absolutely have walked round with them if I'd felt more comfortable doing so - it was my home after all, and it's not my job to make sure viewers have the most pleasant experience possible.) However, I was surprised by the number of questions that viewers wanted to ask us once they knew we were tenants - questions about when/why we were moving out, questions about the house, the neighbours, how much it cost to heat in winter, and so on. I would prepare yourself for a bit of that if you're planning to be around when viewers are.
posted by Catseye at 4:58 AM on January 4, 2017 [12 favorites]

For the most part I'm afraid you're going to have grin and bear it.

But I think you could put your foot down on one or two points: No viewing before 9AM or after 5PM.

I also think you're over thinking the theft thing. Agents/realtors keep an eagle eye on prospective buyers when viewing property. But it's up to you to put valuables away out of sight, eg: in a dresser drawer, not a closet or cupboard. Buyers open closets etc, but they never touch (or shouldn't) furniture.

Good luck to you.
posted by james33 at 5:00 AM on January 4, 2017 [5 favorites]

We have been showing our house and yes, it is super annoying. I honestly have not worried about theft. Maybe I'm being naive, but I really don't see people going to house showings just to try to steal things.

One cautionary note: I've found that prospective buyers routinely overstay their scheduled windows, sometimes by an hour or more. Be prepared to ask them to leave when their window is up unless you're fine with this.
posted by enn at 5:30 AM on January 4, 2017

Yep, I'm threadsitting. Thank you for your contributions - I don't want to hear "put your valuables away" but I guess we need to. (London experience here - potential viewers stealing stuff is a real thing)

We're working with our landlord - she's respectful of the 24 hours notice, and I trust her to show the house even if we're not present, and we're respectful of the fact that she wants to sell the place, so while we're not going to keep it as a show home, it's always going to be "showable" (i.e. not a cess pit). But we have no leverage - our lease is up soon enough anyway, and we want a reference, so we have to be nice and accommodating.

I think we're going to try to be present for showings as much as we can, to give us some vague illusion of control. We've agreed with the landlord that we won't highlight problems (that's the surveyors job), but we will speak to the neighbors / transit options etc if asked.

But how do I cope with the "omg lots of random people just walked through my home and that makes me feel anxious and stressed and generally not good"?
posted by finding.perdita at 5:35 AM on January 4, 2017

Another way to think of it is the nicer the place looks, the more quickly it will sell. I would tidy and keep the place as clean as possible for that reason. You're also moving soon so it's a good time to declutter. You can either hide your valuables or worry about them being stolen, that's up to you. Have you thought about a nanny cam you could use to watch from a distance? It might help alleviate some of your anxiety. I personally find it really uncomfortable to be home during showings and would avoid that at all costs.
posted by areaperson at 5:36 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

On how to deal with strangers going through your home 1. Have things actually put away so that when they go to see the size of a closet or how the plumbing under the sink looks crap doesn't tumble out and you don't feel like they've riffles through it 2. After they leave, clean again (or at least sweep and use some Clorox wipes on door knobs) 3. Open the windows and air it out.
posted by raccoon409 at 5:53 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

I don't know how it works where you are, but you will likely be sh*t out of luck if anything gets stolen. You (in essence) willingly let someone into your home, which will void any insurance. This is the main reason why you *do* actually want to be present there at any inspections.

I went through this ordeal myself though. Quiet enjoyment means whatever you negotiate it to be. Personally, I did not (at least not initially) allow ANY open showings but appointment was ok, and I made sure I was there for all of them. You will have to decide your comfort level on the matter - it seems like you feel very uncomfortable with it, so I'm guessing it might be a good idea for you to also ensure you're there.

Like other people have pointed out to you, it is in the owner/agents interest to keep you happy, as you can make life quite hard for them if you felt aggrieved by the situation.
posted by ryanbryan at 5:59 AM on January 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

You don't say where in Oregon you are, but most of the cities and larger towns around the state have extremely tight housing markets; all of this very well may be moot because often it takes a single day of showings or an open house for plenty of offers to come in on a house.

In our neighborhood Houses often have offers before any showings have occurred. It's very possible that your house won't be on the market very long at all.
posted by furnace.heart at 6:10 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

If the landlord is OK with you being present for showings, great, but someone who has bought two homes in the last two years, both of which had the people living there present at the showing, it is extremely annoying to have the tenants/homeowners present, to the point that we requested second viewing specifically without anyone else present on the first house (the second one that wasn't possible because we were buying remotely and only had a day in town) and for the second, it made negotiations a lot more uncomfortable and we would have really preferred to have never met anyone actually living at the property. The reality is you just can't look around as freely, and talk as freely, if the occupants are right there.

All of which is to say, being present may actually backfire on you, either because the interested parties may request a second showing without you there anyway, and some marginally interested parties may back away because it's a weird situation, and you may end up with MORE showings before the house is sold. If there's any way you can pack away valuables and make yourself scarce it really may make things go quicker and more smoothly in general. You can ask the buyer's agent to keep a closer eye on their clients than they usually do -- in my experience it's pretty rare for the agent to not be in the same room as the prospective buyer, it'd be hard to steal things particularly if you make that special request. I would have been way more OK with my agent sticking closer to us than having to talk to occupants.

And, I mean, I'm a NICE person who really understands that this is a HUGE intrusion on rent-paying tenants. I totally get it. But buying a house is a huge deal which involves large amounts of money and lots of big feelings. A lot of people totally won't give a shit and I can see this becoming a problem.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:13 AM on January 4, 2017 [20 favorites]

How to handle the stress?
Make yourself a nice cup of tea grab a good book sit down at the dining room table and let them tour the house. When they have questions they'll come and talk to you. In the meantime and you can practice some positive thoughts and deep breathing.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:28 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I actually thought rabbitrabbit was addressing your question directly with the suggestion you may end up with more visits if you want to be present I see you are in Portland-my guess is the same as a previous poster, that this will likely be a very short term problem if things go the way they typically go in the Portland housing market.

Would it help you to think of this the same way you would if a repair person came into your home? Strangers come into our homes and it can be weird and I feel for you. I know it's hard to be losing your home.
posted by purenitrous at 6:44 AM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

And from a completely different perspective, I sold a house in the Portland OR area last year and the best thing we did was have ONE showing and a deadline for offers the next day -- we only had to clean up and go out for brunch once while dozens of people looked at the house was a super-efficient way to get the viewing problem solved. Maybe see if your landlord would be into that?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:52 AM on January 4, 2017

I'm a former property manager/real estate sales agent.

I would be concerned about people stealing stuff. It does happen, there are con artists who pose as people looking at homes who steal things. Real Estate Agents sometimes steal things too.

I've seen bad behavior from people looking at houses for sale. I have refused to work with people further because of things they did in houses. ( Random examples - standing on a bed with shoes on to look at a light fixture, using toilets and not flushing, looking in dresser drawers, and when politely asked to stop, eye rolling reactions)

When I put my house on the market in the spring I am moving myself and my cats and anything I care about out of the house. Yes, that means I will have to pay rent somewhere but it's worth it because my house will sell faster with less aggrivation.

Usually the showing agent will make apointments with the tenants, because the tenants want to be there.

It's not up to the owner to decide if tenant are allowed to be there or not. Yes it does make the house harder to sell. This is part of the downside of being a landlord. If the landlord wishes to show a vacant home they can simply wait until the end of February.
posted by Melsky at 6:54 AM on January 4, 2017 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I would absolutely be present as much as I could. Yes, it makes it harder for prospective buyers, but that's not your job to worry about. It will also minimize the shit people do in your home.
posted by corb at 7:08 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe find research for your landlord showing how much extra money staging the house can bring and / or negotiate for an early move out (e.g., leave Feb 1 instead of Mar 1). Basically make the case that they'll get more money if they wait for you to get out, while maybe also offering to get out sooner. Depending on the local market and the property, I think that could be a pretty legitimate argument to make.
posted by salvia at 9:30 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

To me, being present would make it harder to rid my mind of the idea of strangers having been in my home.
posted by salvia at 9:33 AM on January 4, 2017

If I were you I would ask the landlord for money for you to rent a small secure storage space for valuable belongings, and I would get the hell out of dodge every time there is a showing.
posted by bq at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2017

As a former realtor, having tenants or owners around during a showing is super annoying. People want to talk openly about the property. The carpet is ugly; it smells funny; yikes, a purple dining room; your tacky salt and pepper shaker collection and the unattractive children and art.

Use common sense, don't leave out jewelry or small valuables including medications. And unless you're going to follow the folks from room to room, you'll be in the way.

And if you're moving in a month to two, now is as good a time as any to start boxing things up. If there is an arrangement that is more convenient for you, then let the realtor know. If Mondays and Thursdays are the best days for showings because the kids are at piano lessons, let him/her know.

And if you'd like to put things in storage while the house is on the market, let the realtor know that too and ask them to pay for a couple months.
posted by shoesietart at 9:53 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I solved this issue by beginning to box things up early, starting with the valuables. It made the moving process considerably less stressful, too.
posted by schroedinger at 9:57 AM on January 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would ask the landlord for two things.

1 - Are PODS or short-term storage options available? I would ask her to pay for one for you. You can load it up now and lock up your valuables. Then the whole POD gets dropped at your new residence. Having your items in a POD is more convenient for you and the house will show better for her. Everyone wins.

2 - Set specific and non-negotiable viewing hours and have control of the lockbox. I know this next bit is going to amp up your stress, and I'm sorry, but there is a good reason for having control of the key. When our last house was on the market Realtors showed up with clients at crazy times despite the hours listed - including one who let herself and her client in before 6am. (Her excuse was that she thought we weren't home because we didn't have a car in the driveway.) Having control of the lockbox will make things so much better for your stress level.

With regard to being present, I've bought and sold a few houses. When we looked at the house I'm standing in right now, the owner was present for the showing. He stayed out of our way and we were respectful It wasn't a big deal and you shouldn't feel bad about wanting to be there if it makes your more comfortable with the process.
posted by 26.2 at 10:53 AM on January 4, 2017

I'm a licensed real estate broker in Oregon and part of my training was in landlord/tenants rights. The broker's agency (or brokers' agencies) are both insured for these kinds of damages. At my agency, we pay a monthly insurance premium with a $5000 deductible, meaning the agency pays damages up to $5000, but the agent is on the hook for the rest.

That said, there's a lot of negotiation and communication - in a good transaction - that goes on between the buyer's and seller's agent and they may decide who's responsible between them. No matter who's responsible, it's still going to be a huge hassle to be reimbursed if something gets stolen so that's a good justification for putting away valuables.

I have to run to an appointment but am happy to address other points later in the thread or via MeMail.
posted by bendy at 11:36 AM on January 4, 2017

I totally understand the worries over theft, because I've had it happen. (Really? The prospective buyer stole from me, among other things, a new not-yet-signed birthday card I hadn't had a chance to mail out?!?)

*Your valuables: remove them entirely. In other words don't just stuff things out of sight in drawers, because while most people won't root through your underwear drawer some people most definitely will.
*Prescription medicines: also lock up. Partly because oh yeah, you need the stuff, and it won't do you any good if it's gone; but also because it'd probably be a pain in your butt to replace.
*Personal papers: lock up anything with your personal info, like SSN or bank account numbers. Ditto your checkbook.
*Pets: consider moving cats or dogs somewhere else for the time being; too many times pets accidently get out of the house.

You could lock your stuff up in the trunk of your car, which would be both accessible to you and out of reach of everyone else.
posted by easily confused at 12:05 PM on January 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

For a frugal compromise, you could pick up a lockable 2-drawer filing cabinet and hide stuff in there. Too big to pocket and too much of a loud hassle to break into. You could additionally train a webcam or old smartphone on it with a video app running to record anything people try with it.
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on January 4, 2017

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