Today I’m writing something short and practical for all you renters out there, about your rights as a tenant if your landlord sells the building/apartment in which you live. It may also be helpful for anyone who owns and sublets/is considering renting out their place. I have lived in my building since 2012. It has been sold twice to new owners. I’ve learned a few things through this process, and hope this can be helpful to anyone worried about their rental future.
First, how much the sales process affects you depends on the type of apartment you have. If you are subletting a co-op or condo (or in certain brownstone setups), selling will involve showing YOUR apartment. It will likely be in your lease that you are required to allow access for a certain period of time before renewal. If you’re selling in a rental building, like mine, the prospective owner may want to see a unit or two (depending on the situation), but their choice to buy will be based more on cap rate (basically a ratio of purchase price to income generating potential of the building) than the space itself.
Second, if you have an existing lease with your landlord, you won’t have to move out until the expiration. The new owner is also buying that same lease with the same terms. If they try to get you to sign a new lease, you don’t have to, and only should if it seems advantageous to you (i.e. same terms, but longer duration and you want to stay). If you are month to month, you’re a little less protected, as your landlord only needs to give you 30 days notice to vacate UNLESS stipulated differently in writing. You can also potentially be less protected in a condo; some leases will include a switch to 30-day-notice if they sell the building. Be very careful to look for these when signing a condo lease, especially if you had to pay hefty move-in fees!
Third, the renewal process once your lease ends will depend on the type of lease you have (protected v. unprotected). IF you are subletting or your lease does not guarantee renewal, you may no longer get the same terms you are used to with the prior landlord. You may find yourself with a rent hike after paying the same amount for years (lawful unless it’s so steep and above market it’s a clear ploy to get you out). But if you are in a protected lease (rent stabilized or controlled, for example), you are guaranteed a renewal regardless of who owns the building.
Really the main potential downside is that your landlord may sell to someone who isn’t as good at taking care of the buildings they own. You may go from an individual who lives in the building to a large management company that views you more as a number than a tenant. Also, in the months leading up to the sale I have noticed both times that management refused to fix issues in the building, instead waiting until it changed hands and putting the financial burden on the new owner. But I am optimistic that this new, third owner will actually take care of the building. It honestly can’t be worse than it was before (or maybe I am speaking too soon, stay tuned!).
A side note: if you have a pending DHCR complaint or litigation against this landlord, it also transfers to the new owner. It should have been part of due diligence the lawyer completed before the sale.
If you are concerned about anything related to your building or apartment being sold, please don’t hesitate to reach out.