Q: The owner of our rental house has decided to sell it several months before our lease is up. What are our rights in this? Can the property manager...
Q: The owner of our rental house has decided to sell it several months before our lease is up. What are our rights in this? Can the property manager require us to do certain work to prepare it for sale, such as yard work, power washing, window cleaning? Do we have to keep the house spotless on a daily basis? (We have kids.) Must we leave during showings?
A: The landlord must give you 24 hours advance notice before showing the property to a prospective purchaser (or tenant).
That’s what state law says. Leaving a note on your door, or a voice-mail message, is sufficient. If you don’t respond, that’s a tacit “yes.”
You can ask to reschedule if the time doesn’t work for you, but you must be reasonable about it.
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Your lease controls what the landlord can expect you to do around the property.
So, for instance, if the lease makes you responsible for yard work, the landlord can hold you to it.
But if it doesn’t, the landlord can’t make you push that lawnmower.
The rest of the situation is negotiable.
“The wise seller and listing agent will meet with the tenants and arrive at some mutually acceptable procedures,” says Kimberly Brangwin, a managing broker for Coldwell Banker Bain in Seattle.
She says everyone benefits if the tenant’s rights are respected and you’re inconvenienced as little as possible.
That could mean agreeing to forgo open houses. Or agreeing that the home will be shown only on certain days or between certain hours.
In exchange, the tenant could agree to be absent during those times.
“Buyers have a very hard time making a decision to buy when other people are around,” Brangwin says.
She’s seen situations where landlords make rent concessions in exchange for the tenant’s cooperation in presenting the property in its best light.
And some landlords have offered tenants financial incentives to vacate before the lease expires.
But one thing the owner can’t do is evict the tenant before the lease is up — and that goes for the old owner and the new one, too.
Q: What happens when you’ve bought a unit in a condo complex and the thing goes bankrupt before many of the units are sold? As an owner can you be liable for costs associated with the bankruptcy?
A: “I don’t think that’s so much of a concern. The concern is who’s going to finish the project and how are those units being sold?” says Seattle real-estate attorney James Strichartz.
He’s seen this situation happen during economic downturns when condo sales slowed and the developer couldn’t meet loan obligations.
Then the lender foreclosed on the project and took the unsold units, selling them in bulk to an investor.
The investor/owner may then rent the units out, in effect turning the building into a hybrid condominium/apartment house.
Generally nothing prevents the new owner from doing this.
“If the number of foreclosed units is sufficient to control the association, the owners who bought in early have significant problems,” Strichartz says.
“They don’t have any control of the association, and they live in an apartment complex that’s being run by an investor motivated by different interests.”
This can make it almost impossible for individual owners to sell their condos, he adds.
However there is something potential new condo buyers can do to sidestep this problem.
They can insist their purchase not be finalized until at least 70 percent of the all units are presold and ready to close.
Strichartz says this should be written into the purchase and sale agreement.
Having roughly three-quarters of the building spoken for should ensure the building’s financial stability, protecting buyers whose closings can all be held within a short time period.
Q: After I bought my house in Ballard, I received periodic advertisements from the collaborating agent on the deal.
I figured this agent took my information from the purchase-and-sale agreement, but what can I say since the sale is recorded publicly?
Than about a year later, the agent sent me advertising about a home for sale.
Clearly, the agent stole my private information and entered it in their database.
I complained and the agent offered to remove me. I’m happy about that, but I’m still hopping mad that this agent has a policy of stealing people’s data without their permission. Is there somewhere I can report this activity to?
A: This one’s a head scratcher. When you first received mailings you didn’t ask the agent to stop. Instead you rationalized — probably correctly — that the agent was using data you provided during the purchase of your home.
So what changed when the same agent then sent you information about a home for sale? How exactly was your information stolen?
Here’s the deal on mailings. Companies and individuals you’ve had business dealings have the legal right to contact you, and you can ask them to stop, which you’ve done.
But companies cannot use government Web sites to collect mass-mailing information.
That means, for example, they are barred from using the tax assessor’s data to build their own database of names.
Since it appears that what this agent did is legal, there’s really no one for you to complain to.
Home Forum answers readers’ real-estate questions. Send questions to Home Forum, Seattle Times, P.O. Box 1845, Seattle, WA 98111, or call 206-464-8510 to leave a question on a recorded line. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.