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Housing
My Landlord Is Selling the Property: What Are My Rights?
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Will I have to move?

Maybe not. In New Jersey, the sale of a property alone is not a ground for eviction. However, if the building has three residential units or fewer, and the buyer wishes to live in your unit, you may be at risk of eviction. The contract for sale between your landlord and the buyer must require that your unit be vacant at the time of closing (the last step in the sale process when the deed is transferred). In addition, the landlord has to give you at least two full calendar months’ notice before filing an eviction complaint with the court. The notice cannot be effective before your lease term ends, and an eviction complaint cannot be filed until that time.  \

ExampleThe tenant rents a single- family home and the property has been listed for sale. The tenant has a lease agreement that ends December 31.

On August 8, the landlord sends the tenant a letter, which states that the tenancy is terminated on November 30 because the property is being sold to a buyer who wishes to move into the home. It also states that the contract for sale requires that the home must be vacant at the time of closing. 

Can the landlord legally file an eviction complaint based upon the August 8 notice in December?

No. The notice should be effective December 31, the end of the lease term. The earliest the landlord can file for eviction is in January.

A landlord must go through the court process to remove a tenant and prove one of the grounds for eviction in court. Even if your landlord is selling the property, you still have to pay your rent. Otherwise, the landlord could immediately file an eviction complaint based upon nonpayment of rent.

The landlord is not renewing my lease because the property is being sold. Do I have to move?

In most cases, no. The ending of a lease is not grounds for eviction. The same lease terms continue on a month-to-month basis.

However, if the landlord lives on the premises, and there are one or two residential rental units, the end of tenant’s term could be grounds for eviction. This is often referred to as the “owner-occupied” exception. The landlord would have to provide a prior written notice terminating the tenancy before filing an eviction complaint. The notice period depends upon the term of the tenancy. If the tenancy is month-to-month, then at least a full calendar month’s notice terminating the tenancy is required.

Do I have to let inspectors, realtors, or potential buyers in while I am still living there?

In general, the landlord, or those acting on behalf of the landlord, are entitled to enter upon reasonable prior notice. If you live in a building that has three or more dwelling units, that usually means one day.

Indoor gatherings, like open houses, are subject to current COVID-related executive and administrative orders regarding indoor gatherings. At this writing, that means no more than 25 people may attend, attendees must wear face coverings, and parties must stay six feet apart. That may change, and you may find updated information at Can real estate agents continue to show properties in person? Can my landlord show my apartment to potential renters? (from the NJ Department of Health).

However, if you or a member of your household is at an increased risk of infection from COVID-19, seek legal advice. You may be able to ask for a “reasonable accommodation,” which could include virtual showings, only showing the property to prequalified buyers, or some other resolution.

It is important to review your last written lease terms, and the terms of any written rules. If there are any paragraphs about the landlord, or someone who works for the landlord, accessing the unit, you could be at risk of eviction if you deny access. The landlord would have to send a warning notice first, and if there is an alleged breach after that, the landlord would have to send a one-month notice terminating the tenancy before filing an eviction complaint.

Does the new owner have to honor my lease agreement?

When an owner sells the property directly to someone else, the new owner takes the property subject to the current lease terms. Remember, if your lease expired years ago, those same terms carry over on a month-to-month basis.

The new owner may, after a lease term ends, propose a new lease or rent increase. If that happens, you should seek legal advice. There are rules and procedures that the landlord must follow. Learn more about rent increases in chapter 7 of our Tenants’ Rights in New Jersey manual.

An owner may later decide to move into the property. If the building has three residential units or fewer, that could also be grounds for eviction. The owner must serve the tenant with a two-calendar-month notice in order to terminate the tenancy. The notice can only be effective after the end of the lease term.

What happens with my security deposit after the landlord sells the property?

If you are still living there, the new owner is responsible to you for the deposit, even if the new owner did not get it from the prior owner. Learn more about security deposits in chapter 3 of our Tenants’ Rights in New Jersey manual.

My landlord filed for eviction. Could I be locked out?

As of this writing, landlords can still file eviction complaints during the pandemic. However, courts are not scheduling any landlord-tenant trials now, unless a judge has determined that the case is an emergency. Nonpayment of rent is not an emergency, unless the tenant has passed away and the unit is vacant.  To get a trial, a landlord would have to file an order to show cause to get a trial date and demonstrate “emergent circumstances.” According to the New Jersey Supreme Court’s July 14, 2020 order, such circumstances may include violence against other tenants, criminal activity, extreme damage to the residence, and death of a tenant resulting in vacancy of the rental unit. The court must take into consideration the circumstances of each case in determining whether the matter is emergent. If you get an “order to show cause to schedule a trial,” seek legal advice as soon as possible. Even if a trial is scheduled, the landlord must prove that all criteria for eviction are met.

It is possible that you cannot be locked out for a while, even if your landlord wins at trial. Learn more about what happens after the eviction hearing in chapter 11 of our Tenants’ Rights in New Jersey manual.

More importantly, Governor Murphy issued Executive Order 106, which stops most tenant lockouts until two months following the end of the public health emergency or state of emergency, whichever is later, unless the governor modifies the order. Currently, the New Jersey public health emergency has been extended through May 15, 2021. Most tenants cannot be legally locked out until July 14, 2021, at the earliest, in accordance with Executive Order 106. However, the court or a landlord may make a motion to proceed with a lockout before this time, if it is necessary “in the interest of justice.”

For updates on eviction court procedures and lockouts, check our COVID-19 section or the New Jersey Courts website.

I moved (or was evicted) because the buyer or owner was going to move in, but never did. What are my rights?

If the buyer or owner, as the case may be, did not live there for at least six months, you may have grounds for a lawsuit.  You may be able to get triple the costs you incurred as well as attorney’s fees and costs of suit. Keep copies of all of your notices, court papers, and any receipts associated with your move (such as moving truck, storage unit, etc.). Seek legal advice.

The New Jersey public health emergency has been extended through May 15, 2021. In almost all cases, tenants cannot be legally locked out until July 14, 2021, at the earliest, pursuant to Executive Order 106.

4/28/2021