The landlord’s point of view:

2020 was a hard year for landlords. Vacancy was higher than normal. It was difficult to keep apartments full. Tenants had legitimate problems being unable to pay the rent. It was difficult to get repairs done, since workers were heavily booked and tenants were reluctant (legitimately) to let them in…

Hmmm. My two-family house is worth $1.2M now. I am getting $4500 a month ($54,000 a year) to rent it, before expenses. If I sell it, I will get about 22 years’ worth of rent, right now, before expenses…Then again, I can sell them both as condos…

I need to let my tenants know that I am not renewing their lease.

The tenant’s point of view:

HELP! HELP! The landlord just told me that they’re not renewing the lease and we need to move by August 31.

Rona’s comment: I picked up two of those distress signals last week. I usually get a few every summer, but two in mid-July is more than normal.

Here is the general advice, written as frequently asked questions.

Can a landlord tell me to leave with only one month’s notice? 

It depends on your lease. Many leases require one month’s notice of non-renewal of the lease. If you are a tenant at will, many require one month’s notice to terminate; some require two months.

Can I just squat here, if I can’t find a place?

Squatting is against the law. No, you can’t do that, legally.

Can I negotiate with my landlord for an extension?

You can try that! If the landlord can sell the property the way it is, they probably want to market it this fall. If that is the case, you can try, but may fail. However, if they plan on renovating, another month does not hamper their plans much. If that is the case, you have a better chance of getting some extra time to move.

Should I stop paying my rent/ should I not pay my August rent?

It depends on your lease. If you paid “last month’s rent,” you have already paid for August. If you paid a security deposit, you won’t get that back until you leave, and the property is in good condition. Check your lease. If you owe August rent, you cannot tell the seller to keep your security deposit in lieu of rent payment; you have to pay your rent.

Can I hire you to help me find a condo to buy before August 31? 

In the current market, expect to make more than one offer before you get an offer accepted. Competition is the worst I’ve ever seen. If you are buying for cash, you can close in two weeks or so. Even then, it is taking a risk to expect that you will get a reasonable offer accepted in time for an August 31 move-in deadline. You only have a couple of weeks.

If you are like most people, you will be getting a mortgage. It takes four to five weeks between the time your offer is accepted until you can close on your next place with a mortgage. That gives you this weekend.

So, no. We might be the best buyer’s agents in the world, and we couldn’t get you settled in a condo that fast in this market. However, we’re here to help when you aren’t buying in an emergency.

Can we buy this place from the landlord?

Maybe. And my office can help you. Here are the steps:

  • Can you buy this place from the landlord?

My agents, or I, can give you a rough idea of the fair market price of the property. This is not a full market study, until you decide you want to try to buy it. This is a figure you can use to find out whether you can buy it. Do you have a down payment? Can you get preapproved to borrow for a mortgage to cover the rest?

  • Do you want to buy this place from the landlord? 

You have been living there. You know what you like and don’t like about this property.

Do you like it enough to plan to stay for seven to ten years? If not, it is a starter home. Buying one of those is a bad idea. If it is too small for your future, you should not buy this. The people who benefit from purchases of starter homes are real estate professionals, not buyers. It costs a lot to trade up later.

If you like it enough to stay, we’ll see you through the rest of it. The plan would be for you to get a full pre-approval. We’d do a full market study. Then, we’d put together a complete offer to present to your landlord. We’ll be with you for the home inspection through to closing.

How do I plan to buy something next year, so I don’t have to go through this again  with a landlord next August?

Pay attention to your next lease. There are many versions of “standard” leases.  I know what is in some of them, but an attorney is the right professional to consult to know what a contract says and doesn’t say.

These are the things your next lease should have:

Severability: If you find a place to buy before next August (let’s say a June move-in), can you sublet your apartment to avoid owing rent on an empty apartment. What will the landlord require to accept a subletter?

Deposits: Will this lease require first and last month’s rent or first and security deposit?

You can start house hunting at any time. The earlier you start, the more time and choices you will have for your house hunt. The later you start, the lower your risk of paying extra rent.

I last wrote about real estate seasons is January 2020. Oooops, Covid changed everything. 2020 was affected; we had a very late spring that was really in the summer and fall. This year seems to be going back to the typical pattern.