Last Updated on October 21, 2023 by Kelvin Nielsen
California tenants enjoy a myriad of rights, including when a landlord is looking to sell the property.
Your landlord may want to sell their rental property for a boatload of reasons. From the need to cash out, to reduce debt, to move somewhere new, or even to take advantage of high market prices. The reasons could be many and varied!
Be that as it may, as a tenant, you enjoy certain rights when a landlord is looking to sell property in California. For instance, the landlord cannot simply cancel your lease and kick you out. That would be grossly illegal as per California law (CA Civil Code 1940-1954.06).
Here are 4 tenant rights when a landlord sells property in California. The following are answers to commonly asked questions on the topic.
What rights do tenants have when the landlord sells property in California?
#1: You have a right to continue living on the property.
Just because the landlord is selling the property doesn’t mean that they can cancel your lease and kick you out. If you have a fixed-term lease, the landlord must wait until the lease expires to regain possession.
The same, however, cannot be said when it comes to periodic leases such as a month-to-month lease. In such a case, the landlord can serve you either a 30-days’- or 60-days’ notice to vacate, depending on how long you’ve stayed there.
If you have rented the property for less than a year, the landlord must serve you a 30 days’ notice to vacate. If you have stayed for more than a year, the landlord must serve you a 60 days’ notice to vacate. California Civil Code § 1946.1(b) & (c).
#2: You have a right to enjoy the existing terms of the lease.
Even after the property you are renting is sold, the incoming landlord cannot make changes to the lease agreement. They cannot, for instance, raise the rent amount.
Here is a guide on other things the new landlord cannot do.
#3: You have a right to privacy.
Just because the new landlord has bought the property doesn’t mean they can enter your property as they wish. They must notify you of the intended entry as per California landlord entry laws.
The laws dictate that a landlord provide a 24 hours’ advance notice, enter for legitimate reasons, and only enter during normal business hours. The only exception is during an emergency, or if the landlord has enough reasons to believe you have abandoned the property, or under court orders. (Civil Code section 1954.)
#4: You have a right to be treated fairly and equally.
The new landlord must treat you fairly and equally as per state and federal fair housing laws. They cannot treat you differently because of your race, color, religion, familial status, or other state-protected classes.
A few exemptions exist regarding the rights tenants have when a landlord is selling property in California. For one, the incoming landlord doesn’t have to honor any special terms the outgoing landlord had agreed to.
Examples of such concessions could be things like free parking, free utilities, or waived pet fees.
And two, both you and the landlord may be able to reach an agreement to end the tenancy mutually. For instance, if you agree to a cash-for-keys arrangement.
What should you know if Landlord is Selling House on a Month-to-Month Lease in California?
If you are on a month-to-month lease, the landlord must serve you proper notice before terminating your lease.
If your tenancy is less than a year, the landlord must serve you a 30 calendar days’ notice to vacate the property. For tenancies of at least 1 year, the landlord must serve you a 60 calendar days’ notice to vacate.
If you don’t move out within the notice period, the landlord may choose to file an eviction lawsuit against you. You’ll then have to go through the judicial eviction process, which can take anywhere between 5 and 8 weeks to end.
Can a New Owner Evict Tenants?
A new owner cannot simply evict a tenant just because they have bought the property. That would be illegal! However, nothing stops a new owner from evicting the tenant for a ‘just cause’ such as nonpayment of rent or lease violations.
The bottom line is – a landlord must have a legal reason to evict a tenant. Without that, the eviction is bound to fail from early on in the process.
What Are Tenants’ Rights When A Landlord Sells Property With No Lease?
Even without a lease, tenants still enjoy a smorgasbord of rights when the landlord sells the property. Under California law, you have the following rights.
- Right to continue staying on the property until the current rental period ends. During this time, the landlord cannot terminate your lease.
- Right to reasonable notice. The landlord must serve you proper notice to terminate the lease. In California, a landlord must serve the tenant either a 30-Day- or a 60-Day Notice to Vacate, depending on the length of tenancy.
- Right to continue living under the existing lease terms. The landlord cannot, for instance, hike the rent during the current term.
But even with an ongoing lease, both you and the landlord may agree to terminate it by mutual agreement. For instance, if the landlord offers you a cash-for-keys agreement. Ultimately, though, the final decision lies with you!
What Can Happen If Tenant Refuses To Leave When House Is Sold?
If you refuse to leave when the house is sold, the landlord can resort to the only option they have – an eviction! The landlord must follow the following steps for a successful eviction process.
- Serve the tenant an appropriate eviction notice.
- File an eviction lawsuit (if the matter remains unresolved).
- Have the tenant served with a copy of the Summons and Complaint.
- Attend the court hearing.
- Request for a court order.
This is the legal process that a landlord must follow to evict a tenant from their rented premises. Trying to evict a tenant by throwing out their belongings, locking them out, or shutting down their utilities will fail.
What to Do If Landlord Sells Property without Telling Me?
Landlords must notify tenants of their intentions to sell the property. The specific notice to give depends on the state laws, as well as the tenancy type.
In California, the landlord must provide you with a 120-day notice to sell if the tenancy type is a fixed-term lease. This will give you 120 days to vacate the property. Again, for tenants on a month-to-month lease, the landlord must provide a notice of at least 30-days- or 60 days, depending on the length of tenancy.
The notice must be in writing and served properly. It must also state the date on which the landlord intends to sell the property.
So, what should you do if come to learn that the landlord sold the house without telling you? In such a case, you’ll have three options in California.
- The first option would be to talk with them. Ask them to provide the notice, as well as confirm the date on which they intend to sell the property.
- The second option would be to file a complaint with the California Department of Consumer Affairs if the landlord is uncooperative. The state department will investigate the complaint to see whether the landlord is in violation.
- The third option would be to sue the landlord. While drastic, you may be left with no option if the landlord fails to comply with the law.
What is a Notice Of Change Of Ownership to Tenant In California?
A notice of change of ownership to tenant in California is a document that the landlord must provide you when they sell the property. The notice must be in writing and contain some important information.
Including, the rental’s name and address, date of change of ownership, and acceptable rent payment options.
The landlord must serve you the notice of change of ownership within 15 days of the change. If the landlord fails to do so, you may be able to break the lease without penalty or withhold future rent payments until they comply. (California Civil Code § 1962).
There you have it – tenants’ rights when a landlord sells property in California. For a comprehensive overview of other rights you enjoy in California, please click here.
Disclosure: The content herein isn’t a substitute for advice from a professional attorney. It’s only meant to serve educational purposes. If you have a specific question, kindly seek expert attorney services.
Hi, I’m Kelvin Nielsen, an experienced landlord and accomplished real estate lawyer. My focus is on answering your questions about renting in the hopes of making your life as a renter or a landlord a bit easier.