Landlord selling my building: Am I screwed?
March 20, 2006 5:26 PM   Subscribe

NYC: Our landlord is selling our building. We have a lease. What's going to happen to us?

I just learned on Saturday that our landlord is selling the brownstone we rent the top floor of in Brooklyn. Somebody is already coming by to see the place tomorrow. We have a standard, legal lease; what are a new owner's responsibilities re: this lease, our rent, etc.? Does he/she have to honor them, or are we up shit creek? This is a surprisingly difficult topic to Google... My understanding was that they do have to honor the lease, but informally speaking, if that displeases them, they can make my life very difficult. Am I wrong in this, and they don't have to honor it at all?
posted by logovisual to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Yes, your new owner is buying your lease as well as the building. The reason they are buying the building is to rent it out so they can make money off it, so it's nice for them that you already live there, it saves them finding someone to rent your flat.
posted by kindall at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2006

Best answer: Nothing changes. The new owner must honor existing lease agreements for the term specified and at the rent specified.

They may want you to sign a new lease. You do not have to do so if its not advantageous to you.

When the lease expires, normal renewal practices are in effect (i.e., if the building is rent-stabilized, the same requirements apply as if you were renewing under the old owner).

Nothing will change except the address you mail the rent to. The problem you suggest, which I'll summarize as "what if the landlord is a prick?", can happen with any landlord at any time, so you can't really classify that as having anything to do with the sale of the building.
posted by jellicle at 5:38 PM on March 20, 2006

I only speak for DC here, but when some relatives bought an apartment building, the only (legal) way they could force tenants out was if the apartment in question was going to be occupied by family members of the new owners. In practice this would have been wildly difficult, so they basically said, "We want you out, take some money, it will be easier on everyone," and emptied the building that way. A reasonable dialogue with, or at least an honest assessment of the future given to, the tenants is going to be much, much easier for new landlords to handle than a long period of harassment, particularly as they'd have to install their own Evil Resident Manager, research which frequently-reccurring plumbing problems they could refuse to fix, plot the most annoying times to schedule repairs, etc.

Of course, they could be insane, but as jellicle mentioned above, that is a possibility in any landlord situation, and here at least you have the advantage that they would be bringing their insanity to your turf rather than the other way around. Either way, I would wait to see who buys the building and what their expressed plans are before you start worrying too much. Odds are, they'll be happy to have decent, rent-paying tenants already in place.
posted by posadnitsa at 6:02 PM on March 20, 2006

When does your lease expire? Some leases (and maybe states, actually) have policies limiting showing the apartment to the last X months/days of the lease. So if that's bugging you, read the fine print.
posted by SuperNova at 6:11 PM on March 20, 2006

I only speak for DC here, but when some relatives bought an apartment building, the only (legal) way they could force tenants out was if the apartment in question was going to be occupied by family members of the new owners.

That is also true in New York City. (There was a great case last year or so of a landlord trying to evict all tenants of a five-story multi-unit building they had just purchased; they were stretching their rights to say the least.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:53 PM on March 20, 2006

Saith a lawyer friend who dealt with these issues when he and his wife bought their current place in Brooklyn, "Unless they bought the house at a judicial foreclosure
sale, they have to honor the lease." I specifically asked about the "what if the new owners want to take over the whole thing as a primary residence" issue. Since your description rules out "judicial foreclosure," I think you're in good shape.
posted by BT at 6:57 PM on March 20, 2006

Read your lease.
It could very well say 'if landlord sells you get the boot'... and you signed it. If not, nothing changes other than where you send the rent check.
Im a 'landlord' for some residential property and my leases include clauses that say if I sell the property the new owner can give the boot to tenants with 3 months notice. My tenants signed it. If I sell and they don't like it, sorry.
posted by freeflytim at 7:26 PM on March 20, 2006

You have a ton of rights as a New York tenant. Here's the Web site of a well-known and very scrappy tenants' rights group. You are in fine shape unless they want you out, and if they do they need to jump through quite a few legal loopholes to do so.
posted by lackutrol at 7:28 PM on March 20, 2006

Tim, New York law is much more restrictive than yours, and the courts generally side with tenants. There are a lot of lease clauses that can and will be ruled illegal, even more so if the apartment is stabilized. Basically, in New York, you definitely wouldn't be able to put such a clause in a stabilized lease, and probably not in a non-stabilized lease.
posted by lackutrol at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2006

wow. Glad Im not in NYC ;-)

An entire apartment complex where I live got the boot when a new owner had different plans. It was in the tenant's leases.
posted by freeflytim at 7:39 PM on March 20, 2006

When a (NYC) building is sold the mortgage terms are better if it has rentals, but the selling price is higher if its empty.

You might expect some changes when your lease is up.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:45 PM on March 20, 2006

I've been going through the exact same issue in Toronto, and the Tenant Protection Act here says that nothing in a lease can contradict the TPA - including a clause allowing the new landlord to evict the individual with notice as stated in the lease. Check the equivalent NY statutes - I'd be surprised if such an eviction clause would hold up even if it were in your lease.

IANAL, but I am a law student. We're the most dangerous...
posted by evadery at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2006

Somebody is already coming by to see the place tomorrow.

Is this what has you worried about the future? I wouldn't assume that they're showing it to your replacement. For instance, the new owner may simply want to take a closer look at what he's got, or may need to point out problem spots to a contractor. Chat up your visitor tomorrow, and you may gain some very useful hints of the landlord's plans.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:06 PM on March 20, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody... I thought I was gonna be OK, I just wanted to make sure. To be honest, I wouldn't mind looking for a new apartment (this one's kinda small), but I certainly wanted to be able to do it on my own time frame, not in the context of a "Yeah, you're gone, see ya" scenario. I'll be very friendly to whoever comes by tomorrow... (the apartment's in good shape, so in general my contact with any landlord should be minimal, but we shall see.)
posted by logovisual at 8:59 AM on March 21, 2006

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