Does a Tenant Have Rights When Property Ownership Changes Hands?

The San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Attorneys at Elke & Merchant, LLP, get a number of repeat questions. One of the ones we hear most frequently is whether a tenant has rights when property ownership changes hands?  This is an important question, because property values in the San Francisco area have been consistently increasing, offering an incentive for property sales.  In addition, rent control measures, which limit the amount by which landlords can increase tenants’ rents, often mean that an owner keeping a rent property is not able to maximize profits and charge prevailing rights.  The situation not only makes it likely for property owners to sell property, but also provides an incentive for property owners to engage in rent skimming, which means that the owner is collecting rent, but not paying mortgages, setting up a foreclosure scenario.

If ownership of your home is changing hands, it is important that you understand your rights.  Generally, any new owner, including a foreclosing bank, has to honor any leases in effect at the time of the transition.  The laws are specific about the type of property, when it was built, and the number of units, but generally a new owner cannot evict you or cancel an existing lease.  In fact, a new owner may not even be able to increase your rent more than allowed by rent control rules or evict you in order to fill the unit with a higher-paying tenant.  Even if you live in a newer building, which lacks rent ordinance protections, you are probably protected under the just cause evictions standards.

The first step to protecting your rights is knowing what those rights are.  If you are facing changes in ownership in the property your rent, contact one of the San Francisco Landlord-Tenant Attorneys at Elke & Merchant, LLP, to ask them how the ownership change will impact your rights as a tenant.

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