Buying a home with tenants in place

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Topic: Buying a home with tenants in place

Real Estate December 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Buying a home with tenants in place


Hi everyone,
We’re in the process of buying a unit that is currently rented out. The existing lease expires in the fall. The tenants have waived their TOPA rights. We would like to move into the unit as soon as possible. Does anyone know whether a new owner has the right to terminate a lease in DC? I have read on the Office of the Tenant Advocate website that one of the 10 legal reasons for evicting tenants is if a property is sold and the new owner would like to occupy it themselves. However, OTA doesn’t make clear whether this applies only in month-to-month situations or whether it applies when there is a valid lease in place.

If we are legally allowed to terminate the lease, does anyone know what kind of notice we need to provide or could you direct me to some resources where we could find out? Also is there a set amount of money we need to give the tenants to move out? We would greatly appreciate any other tips or guidance you could provide!


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You are not allowed to evict arbitrarily (and eviction is very hard in DC) but one of the only ways to force someone out is if the owner or the owner’s relative is going to move in (and they make you prove it). So yes, you can make the tenants move if you are planning to move in yourself and I think that requires a minimum 90 day notice. Contact OTA for details.

While there is a legal framework, I strongly suggest you first try to settle it in a friendly matter rather than just serving an eviction notice. It is the right thing to do and there is nothing worse than having a pissed-off tenant living in your space for 90 days; keep in mind they can make your life hell and do a lot of damage. Avoid that situation at all costs.

My recommendation: approach the tenants and say that you have the right to move in but you understand this sucks for them. Negotiate a move-out date for them and offer them at least $1k ($1k-5k) to move. Also say that you are doing this voluntarily and in return you expect them to leave the place in good condition, allow you to visit the unit with a contractor, etc.

This will cost a little more money in teh short term but will be well worth it. Again, the worst situation you can have is a pissed-off tenant and you never know how bad that can get. Good luck.

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