Q: I have been living for the last 20 years in a month-to-month rental in a single-family residence. The landlord now is selling the property. What type of notice will I be given, 60- or 90-day? Does it go by the close of escrow? What if I stay? Also, is the landlord responsible for any cost in my moving expenses?
A: The answers to your questions depend on the definition of your housing situation and locale. You first need to establish whether you are a bona fide tenant or just an individual renting a room in someone’s house. Are you sharing the home with other renters? Is the house a duplex or sharing the lot with another residence?
Definitions vary greatly and matter mainly because your situation and location may be protected by state laws or city regulations. Not sure where you stand? You’ll need a reference guide or site to help you on the way.
State law, which covers rental situations that are silent locally, can be found a variety of ways. In print, try "Every Tenant’s Legal Guide" by Janet Portman and Marcia Stewart. The guide has an appendix chock full of state-by-state laws and agencies. From Alabama to Wyoming and everywhere in between, statutes, rules and ordinances are described and referenced by civil code or statutes.
Online, a nifty way to find state law is to simply search "tenant" and the state you’re looking for information on. For example, "Tenant Massachusetts" will pull up www.masslegalhelp.org, which provides access to Massachusetts legal aid programs that help consumers find practical information about their legal rights.
Wherever you call home, don’t forget to check http://www.hud.gov/local/index.cfm, which links state by state information, too. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development site can point the way for renters, homeowners and more.
When it comes to timeline for notice, exceptions abound. Usually a month-to-month tenancy can be terminated in that time frame; if you have a lease in effect, that has to be honored by the owners of that property, even if it changes hands. Once your lease period is over you can be given notice without a stated reason required in most areas. A 60-day exclusion may apply to those residing for more than a year in the same rental. For notice purposes, the close of escrow should not have any bearing on the timing of notices.
Ninety days’ notice may apply if the landlord is receiving rent or other payments from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on your behalf or any state or local housing program funds. Rules for subsidized housing are complicated and should be defined by the agency or service providing assistance or legal resource.
If at the end of the notice period you still remain in the rental, an unlawful detainer, also known as an eviction, can be filed against you. Before you decide to fight the eviction, be warned; your credit and future referral chances may be negatively affected.
If you believe you have the right to still occupy the place or are entitled to benefits, don’t go it alone; consult with a legal-aid or housing clinic, attorney or landlord-tenant program in your area.
What about moving expenses? If you’re covered under rent control, relocation benefits may be available. Relocation amounts are based on various factors, such as age and family status of tenant, as well as length of occupancy.
What if there are no known laws that cover your situation or you’re hesitant to pursue legal options? If you can, sit down and talk to the landlord. Explain your needs in a nonconfrontational manner. Ask if they will extend your tenancy until you can find other accommodations. Perhaps they need assistance that can be exchanged for rent. If you need financial help, perhaps they can provide a month’s free rent or prorate funds. Be sure any agreements are put in writing.
Ask for a written reference to help secure a new place to call home. If you’ve proven yourself a fine resident, another opportunity will hopefully come your way.
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