If your landlord is selling your dwelling and you want to break your lease, you’ve come to the right article.
Landlords sell for a variety of reasons – they may be moving and may no longer want to manage the property, they may be faced with hard times and need the money from the sale, they may want to use the money from the sale for a different investment opportunity, or they may simply be tired of being a landlord.
Whatever the reason, many tenants wonder if the sale presents an opportunity for them to break the lease. The answer to that is fairly straightforward.
In most cases, the simple sale of your dwelling to another owner will not give rise to an early termination right. A lease typically survives the sale of the property, unless there is a specific clause in the contract that states otherwise. This means that both you and the new owner are required to honor the terms of the lease after the sale.
That being said, the new owner may not be interested in being a landlord and may have bought the property to live in it. In that case, there may be a real opportunity for you to negotiate an early termination of the lease.
But even if that’s not the case, you may have options to get out of your lease early. I will share some of my best strategies for getting out of your contract early in the event of a sale of the property.
Let’s get into it.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. It is not legal advice. You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.
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Can I Break My Lease If My Landlord Is Selling?
As mentioned above, the answer to this question is going to turn on whether your lease allows early termination in the event of a sale of the property.
Checking Your Lease
When a landlord notifies you that they will be selling or have sold the property, the first thing you should do is check your lease in its entirety to see if there are any provisions that deal with this situation.
For example, if there is something in your lease that states “in the event of the sale, the current lease agreement will be void once a new owner takes over the property,” (or something similar) then you may be able to break your lease.
Sometimes the lease only grants the landlord the ability to end the lease in the property is put up for sale. Often you will find that these leases require at least some prior notice period before they can kick you out (for example 30 or 60 days). Landlords sometimes try to include these types of provisions so they can sell the property in a vacant condition.
A vacant property is often more attractive to homeowners who just want to move into their new home without having to worry about asking a tenant to leave.
Some agreements may give you the right to search for a new apartment once the property is on sale.
But in my experience, most leases are silent on the question of what happens in the event that the property is sold. As I mentioned before, in this case, the lease will generally survive the sale of the property and the new owner will simply become the new landlord.
I have not reviewed every state’s laws on this topic, but from what I have seen, renters generally do not have the right to opt out of the lease when the property is for sale. But if you want to check out your own state’s landlord-tenant laws, you can look it up here.
If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.
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Strategies For Early Termination of Lease When Landlord is Selling
If your lease does not specifically permit early termination upon sale of the property and your state laws are not helpful in this regard either, you can look into other strategies.
Option 1: Examine Your Lease For Other Termination Rights
First, you will want to look over your lease carefully to see if there are other provisions that you can use to break your lease early.
Obviously, a month to month lease is ideal because you can terminate on very short notice and you are no longer liable for paying rent under your lease once it expires.
Some leases also contain a “buyout” clause. This is a provision that allows a tenant to end the lease early if they pay a fee. Usually, these clauses require some advance notice, but it can be a nice option if it’s there. It will certainly be better than being on the hook for all of the rental payment remaining on the lease (assuming you have a good amount of time left).
You should also review the lease to see if there are any conditions or other termination rights that you can exercise.
If the unit is unsafe, uninhabitable, or there are other conditions that apply to your situation, see what the lease says about that. There is an implied covenant of habitability and if your unit does not meet that requirement, you may be able to terminate early under landlord tenant laws, even if your lease is silent on the issue.
Option 2: Communicate with Your Landlord
Let your landlord know that you want to terminate your lease early when you learn of the pending sale. In a lot of cases, your landlord may not be aware of your desire to end the contract early and may actually be happy that you are willing to vacate.
In that case, you can work out a mutually agreeable early termination of the lease.
Option 3: Find a Replacement Tenant
If your landlord is not receptive to a mutual termination, another option is to offer to find a replacement tenant for your unit. This can be a pretty nice option for your landlord. Especially if you offer to list the unit, take all of the emails and calls from prospective tenants, arrange for showings, and basically handle all of the hassle associated with finding a new tenant.
To do this, ask your landlord if they have a listing description that they have used in the past and any photos you can use. In many cases, they will be more than happy to oblige. You will also need to know their screening requirements (e.g., minimum income levels, credit score cutoffs, etc.), so you can perform initial screenings on tenants.
I have found a lot of success finding tenants on zillow.com and apartments.com, so you may want to check them out.
Related Reading: If you want to learn more about how to break your lease early by finding a new tenant, check out my full article on the topic here.
Option 4: Terminate Your Lease Early without Permission
As a last resort, you may want to leave the unit and not pay any further rent.
But if you do that, you run the risk being on the hook for the remainder of the rental payments (and potential penalties) under the lease. That’s the bad part.
However, there is a silver lining. In most jurisdictions, the landlord is required to mitigate damages by trying to find a suitable replacement tenant. Once they do, you will no longer be on the hook for your lease.
It’s a gamble, so you should only use this as a last resort, because if they are not able to find a replacement tenant fast, you will be liable for a large portion of the remaining rent.
Another risk of breaking your lease like this is that a landlord may report any non-payment of rent to credit reporting agencies and take you to court. These actions can have a serious and negative impact on your credit score, which could affect your ability to rent a new place in the future.
But some landlords may just decide to cut their losses and not sue. Litigation is expensive and it’s a pain (even for landlords), so they may just chalk up your departure as a lost cause and work on finding a new tenant to fill the vacancy.
It’s a far from a perfect option, but it’s a ray of hope when all other options have been exhausted.
But before you choose this final option, consider whether there are any other grounds for termination that we haven’t covered already.
Check out my full article on how to break your lease early without penalty for more details. It includes 11 situations where you can terminate early (plus one bonus option that applies in all situations).
So there you have it – a clear answer to the question of whether you can break your lease if your landlord is selling and some practical options on how to do it.