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From the Forum – Foreclosure and Tenant Rights

by Prince Of Petworth June 23, 2014 at 2:10 pm 18 Comments

Photo by PoPville flickr user washingtonydc

Foreclosure and Tenant Rights:

“I just found out that my landlord has been foreclosed on, and the condo I’ve rented for nearly six years will soon be sold at auction. My landlord is unresponsive and I haven’t received any official notice other that what I have found in public records. No one, including the lender or the owner or the trustee, has reached out to me to tell me what’s going on. The auction is scheduled within a few weeks. As a tenant, what are my rights if the place is sold? Can someone come in and change the locks? I am not in a position to move right now. Any advice?”

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  • Lawyer

    The bottom line is that the place remains yours unless the bank sells it to someone who wants to live in the place themselves. In that case, the new owner can kick you out, but only with a good amount of notice.

  • Anonymous

    Notify your landlord and stop paying rent directly to your foreclosed landlord and start putting the money into an escrow account.

  • anon

    Go to the Office of the Tenant Advocate ASAP

    • 17thSter


      • bruno

        Generally, if they are not talking to you, it’s because they hope you go away because they know deep down you have the right to stay there. So, in an odd way, it’s a sign that the situation is in your favor as noted above. If they had every right to throw you out, they would make that clear right away.

  • kken

    isn’t there a moratorium on foreclosures in dc?

  • Lawyer

    Everything you need to know/do is right here: http://ota.dc.gov/node/303962

  • Anonymous

    The big issue is utilities. If the utilities are in the landlord’s name and they stop paying them, the situation becomes very difficult. I’d suggest sorting out the utility issues, if any, immediately after contacting the Tenant Advocate.
    A friend of mine was living in a group house in Shaw a few years ago and the landlord stopped paying utilities for a few months before the eviction notice arrived. About a month or two after the eviction notice, the utilities were shut off. My friend inquired about getting the utilities turned back on, but she soon found out that the landlord owed thousands in old utility bills. He’d pay a couple hundred buck to keep the lights on, the bills would pile up, and then he’d pay a couple hundred bucks right before they would be shut off. He apparently did this for years. The utility companies were demanding payment in full before they would turn back on the power and gas, and obviously my friend couldn’t afford that. She actually lived in the home for a month without power before deciding that she had enough. The other tenants were still living there rent-free until the bank auctioned the home. Pretty nuts!

    • Anonymous

      *Foreclosure notice – not “eviction notice”.

    • Lawyer

      The OP has been renting a condo for six years. I doubt the landlord is paying utilities.

      • Anonymous

        Why? I rented a condo with utilities included for years.

      • annonny

        You have no way of knowing this. Small condo buildings (e.g., converted row houses) often have utilities in the fees, not separately metered. I’ve lived in several different apartments in DC and none had separately metered water or gas. An older building I lived in (apartment not condo) included all utility charges (even cable) in the rent.

  • Anonymous

    Also, the condo board might try to pressure you to pay the apartment’s building maintenance fee in lieu of the foreclosing landlord. Do not pay anything – the bank should be on the hook for that.

  • ShawGuy

    I know tenants in DC have the first right of refusal to buy a property if it becomes available for sale. I don’t know if this would apply to a foreclosure as well, but it’s worth looking into. Even if you don’t want to actually buy it, saying you are interested in doing so might buy you a considerable amount of time to make other arrangements for yourself.

    • d

      Fairly certain that foreclosures/bankruptcy sales are exempt from TOPA.

  • yet another lawyer

    The DC Bar also has a resource center devoted to landlord/tenant issues: http://www.dcbar.org/for-the-public/help-for-individuals/landlord-tenant.cfm. If you can spare the time to wait (sometimes it takes a few hours), they will be able to help.

  • Anonymous

    You can probably get a few thousand if you move out on the new owners’ schedule and without giving them a hard time. It is really hard to evict someone and takes time, so you can negotiate on that.

  • sbc

    If you are in DC, there are a lot of protections and resources.

    http://www.lawhelp.org/dc/issues/housing/home-ownership-foreclosures has a letter you can send to the new owner. If YOU want to be the new owner, there’s a Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act, though I don’t know how it works in foreclosure. OTA should be able to tell you.

    Or go to the Landlord-Tenant Resource Center. Housing Counseling Services may also be able to talk with you but they aren’t lawyers. Wherever you go, bring all paperwork (your lease, proof you’ve paid rent, stuff about the foreclosure–anything you can bring). You’ll probably want to ask about utilities and getting your security deposit back.

    Also, some lenders and owners will give you “cash for keys” if you want to move out. I’ve seen people get over $10,000 for this.

    If the new owner wants to occupy the unit, s/he has to give you 90 days notice, then can take you to landlord-tenant court and have you evicted. There’s a different notice period if the new owner needs you out to make repairs, but then you get to come back.

    If the new owner is a bank or someone who wants to keep renting the space out, you get to stay under the terms of your current lease, and the new landlord can raise the rent when the lease expires.

    So think about what you want out of this (to stay as long as possible? To get money? To own the condo?) and then get some specific advice.


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