As renters, is it reasonable to ask a form of compensation for our landlord's constant open houses?
May 8, 2006 1:37 AM   Subscribe

Our landlord has decided to sell his house. As renters, is it reasonable to ask for some form of compensation for the constant "open houses" that we must partake in?

We're about halfway through a 1 year lease on a 2 unit house in Southern California. We rent one unit, our landlords live on site in the other one. A couple weeks ago, without any notice, we discovered our landlord had put the house on the market.

So far, they've had two "open houses" conducted on Sunday afternoons, during which we had to make our unit available for people to walk through and inspect. Again, this weekend, we're awakened by our neighbors informing us that in TWO HOURS they intended to have yet another open house. And during a discussion with their realtor, we find out that (unbeknownst to us) next weekend they're planning another open house extravaganza on both Saturday and Sunday.

We've already resolved to pay a visit to our landlord this week to discuss their need to give us reasonable advance notice of these open houses. However, we're becoming increasingly annoyed by the frequency of these open houses, since each time we're expected to make ourselves scarce so people can tour our unit.

I don't want to be difficult, and I realize what it takes to sell a house in this market, but I feel like asking us every weekend to let people tour our unit is intruding on our privacy.

Are there any renters/sellers out there that have experienced this from either side of the fence? What have you done to accomodate your landlord's/renter's wishes?

To reconcile our needs, I've considered approaching our landlord to ask that in consideration of our time and effort to accomodate their open houses, they credit us a portion of the rent. (For example, 4 open houses = 4 days or credited rent.) Does this seem reasonable?
posted by FearTormento to Human Relations (21 answers total)
What does your contract say?

The essence of a tenancy agreement is your exclusive occupation of the premises, which they are definitely infringing if it is that frequent six months before the end of the tenancy.

Having an open house with no notice, or several hours, to the tenant is totally unreasonable. There's no reason you shouldn't get a week's notice IMHO.
posted by grouse at 2:01 AM on May 8, 2006

Check your lease agreement.

According to this quick google, you should get 24 hours notice (by law).

I think it's important to familiarise yourselves with the various laws and caveats prior to approaching your landlord - which will give you a good grounding in forming some kind of reasonable arrangement - but I think if you ask for one open house to be equivalent to one day's rent - they'll simply expect you to have the house open all day (which becomes kind of internecine).
posted by strawberryviagra at 2:03 AM on May 8, 2006

Quite apart from the legalities your landlord is missing the golden rule of this situation: "Get the tenants onto your side so that they can help make the sale for you". I went through this situation a few years ago and our landlord agreed to cover our storage costs (to let us de-clutter the house and in preparation for the move) and waved a month's rent. Our part of the deal was to be availble - at times specified well in advance - to show people round. We also had to keep the place looking tidy. We were happy to do so and I suspect that this allowed the apartment to sell for a premium considerably greater than the landlords costs in paying us off.

You might explain this to your landlord. You need not mention that it might be possible to make prospective buyers run a mile with a comment like "Yeah we've had no problems at all with the place - apart from the odd large crack that appears in the wall and the dealers next door"
posted by rongorongo at 3:58 AM on May 8, 2006

Excellent advice, Rongorongo.
posted by strawberryviagra at 4:17 AM on May 8, 2006

AFAIK, the landlord can enter the premises with prior notice but an open house showing can only done with the tenant's permission. Again, this will vary by state/country.
posted by JJ86 at 5:55 AM on May 8, 2006

Lock up anything worth stealing. There are folks who just go shopping at other peoples' open houses on Sunday for entertainment, and one of our news stations mentioned people on drugs rummaging the medicine cabinet for goodies in your absence.
posted by deep_cover at 6:04 AM on May 8, 2006

IANAL, IAAL.(Not a Lawyer, Am a Landlord) Before you meet with the landlord, call Legal Aid and find out what the law requires for notice. You have a reasonable expectation of using your home without unreasonable intrusion and hassle. You may not be required to let them show the place. If you have a lease, the buyers generally must honor it until it expires.

Decide what to ask for, reasonably, of course. Rongorongo is absolutely right about the landlord's need to get you on their side. I'd ask for a weekly cleaning service, and compensation for every time buyers came in.

When I was buying duplex, the rental was only shown to serious prospects. When I need to rent the apt., I show my unit, which is nearly identical, and only show the rental to the best prospects.
posted by theora55 at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2006

AFAIK, the landlord can enter the premises with prior notice

But *what amount* of prior notice is a main part of the question here, and that can only be determined by looking at the lease. FearTormento, in order to help you with this situation in any meaningful way, we need (I repeat: *need*) to know what your lease says, and what your state laws say. You need to know that, too, so get back to us.

But, guessing, a minimum of 24 hours' notice is reasonable, and asking you to "make yourselves scarce" every time is not. Often, landlords/homeowners feel entitled on those points and will take advantage until you push back a bit.
posted by mediareport at 6:25 AM on May 8, 2006

We went through this years ago (in Washington state). We put up with similar hassles until the unit was taken off the market.

We got tired of phone messages like "We'll show the unit today unless you tell us not to" while we were out of the house, so we started locking the deadbolt, which did not have a key in the lockbox.

We later discovered that based on tenants' rights we had the upper hand, not our landlord.

I don't suggest you be an ass unless that's your only choice, but definitely find out what your rights are in this situation.
posted by O9scar at 6:30 AM on May 8, 2006

Everywhere I have rented the lease has said explicitly that the landlord may enter at any time and may show the apartment whenever they please if the lease term is approaching. This is a different situation since your lease is not coming up.
posted by stormygrey at 6:36 AM on May 8, 2006

Quite frankly, there is no need whatsoever for your unit to be included in the open house. And your landlord most likely has no right to force you to participate. Check the lease and call a local tenant's rights organization.
posted by MrZero at 6:38 AM on May 8, 2006

Contact a tenants' rights organization. You may have a great deal of leverage here in terms of relocation costs, etc.
posted by judith at 6:50 AM on May 8, 2006

Also, the new owners will probably have to honor your lease. Make sure your current landlord is aware of this and doesn't sell it to someone that's expecting no tenants.
posted by electroboy at 6:55 AM on May 8, 2006

In addition to the "notice" thing, I suggest you find out your rights regarding eviction. In Toronto, where I am, I was evicted for reasons that weren't my own and under the law the landlord had to give me 3 mos rent. In addition, I only had to give 10 days notice (normally it's 2 mos). So, they gave me 4 mos notice, I found a place 12 days before the end of the second month so didn't have to pay the 3rd and 4th month's rent, and they had to give me 3 mos rent.
posted by dobbs at 7:22 AM on May 8, 2006

I am in Pennsylvania.

I moved into a new apartment last year and, a couple months after, it was sold to a new landlord. They honored all the terms of my lease.

One thing I learned is that you CANNOT assume that landlords will follow rules, but if you make it clear (non-threateningly) that you know what the laws are, it keeps them in check.

And if you can treat it like you're asking for a favor, it works even better. (For example- "Hey, could you do me a favor and give me 24 hours notice if you need to show my place? I want to make sure I have time to clean!") Then, maybe, they will be motivated by wanting to be "nice people" than grudgingly following the letter of the law because they have to.
posted by elisabeth r at 7:30 AM on May 8, 2006

Hi all, thanks for the excellent responses thus far. I wanted to chime in with some additional info, as well as what our lease states after going back and reading through it.

Our lease is pretty thourough, and specifically states that the landlord reserves the right to enter the premises to show prospective buyers or agents the property, within reason.

I guess it's this "within reason" that's the debatable point here.

I don't wish to turn this manner into a "the lease states x and y" type of battle, as our landlords have been completely reasonable and respectful in every other manner, coupled with the fact that their son is in Real Estate Law.

The cleaning service sounds like an excellent suggestion. Part of the hassle of these open houses is that we do make the time and effort to clean things up and make the place look immaculate. Not so much that we want to expedite the sale of our property, but more due to the fact that we'd never have a guest in our house if it was in shambles.

We also have indoor cats, which further complicates the matter since we either have to cage them or close them in a room during the open houses.

A small rent reduction for our troubles or a cleaning service sound like reasonable agreements. Also, reserving the right to not have to have to open our house (for instance, this weekend when we'll have guests visiting) seem worth asking for.

All in all, we'd like to just strike a reasonable accord with our landlords, and hear what others might have done in this situation. I suspect this house is going to be on the market for a while, so I'm searching for something that will make us both happy.
posted by FearTormento at 9:58 AM on May 8, 2006

PS., our landlords have assured us that should a new buyer purchase the home, that we still can continue our lease. We'd just be concerned about our deposit and make sure things are concrete before they bolt out of town.
posted by FearTormento at 9:59 AM on May 8, 2006

A friend of mine, back in college, had the same problem with a landlord. He asked several times for some kind notification... at least a phone call (the guy would show up and just walk into the apartment unannounced). The landlord never paid my friend any mind. So my friend, when the landlord would just show up with potential buyers, walked out of a bedroom or wherever, completely nude, holding a bottle of hand cream... maybe wearing a duct tape over his mouth or something equally bizarre. Needless to say, it didn't take long for the landlord to comply.
posted by Witty at 11:06 AM on May 8, 2006

re: concerns about your deposit/making things concrete: You should get in touch with the agent your landlord is using. The sale agreement should explicitly state that the buyer will honour your lease. Your deposit should go into escrow, to be disbursed per the conditions outlined in your lease upon your departure. You should be a party to this agreement. Nag the agent to get a copy of this agreement.
posted by crazycanuck at 11:15 AM on May 8, 2006

California Stae Law (scroll down to "when can the landlord enter the unit?"
"The landlord or the landlord's agent must give the tenant reasonable advance notice in writing before entering the unit, and can enter only during normal business hours (generally, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays). The notice must state the date, approximate time and purpose of enter."

Also: "The law considers 24 hours' advance written notice to be reasonable in most situations."
posted by oneirodynia at 12:38 PM on May 8, 2006

Posted when I meant to preview-

There are special considerations for rental units that are for sale, in that the lanlord may give you reasonable oral notice, however 24 hours notice is still what is considered "reasonable", and entry may only be between normal business hours unless you consent otherwise.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:43 PM on May 8, 2006

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