Your Rights When Your Building is Sold

Sale of the Building
Normally when a building is sold, leases already in effect and entered into by the owner who sold the property are still legally binding on the new owner. The new landlord cannot evict tenants with a lease for no cause (unless the lease specifically allows it), raise the rent (except as provided for by the lease) or make any other significant changes to the rental agreement before the old lease expires.
However, if the tenant has a lease that lasts for more than one year there is an exception to the rule. In such a circumstance, the lease must be in writing and must be on record in the local city or town clerk’s office. If it is not then the lease is not binding on purchasers if the building is sold. In addition, it is possible that a purchaser may not be bound to existing leases of one year or less if the purchaser had no knowledge or reasonable expectation that there were tenants living in the building at the time of the sale. The seller of the building may be liable personally to the tenants if the new owner does not continue to uphold existing lease provisions.
The former owner must transfer any security deposits to the new owner, and the new owner must give the tenant his/ her name, and address, and document that the deposit has been transferred. The new landlord becomes responsible for returning the deposit.  In Vermont state law, see: (Title 9, Chapter 137: RESIDENTIAL RENTAL AGREEMENTS, 9 V.S.A. § 4461. Security deposits (f))

If there is no written rental agreement, such as a one-year lease, that establishes rights of tenancy for a set period of time, the landlord selling the building may terminate a tenancy with as little as thirty (30) days written notice but only after a purchase and sale agreement has been signed. This shortened notice period is only allowed for the owner who is selling the building and not for a new owner after the sale is completed. If there is a written rental agreement for a set period, however, the tenancy may not be terminated simply because the building is being sold unless the agreement specifically allows for this. However, the landlord must still give the tenant a minimum of 30 days notice if the lease allows the landlord to terminate the lease early. If the tenant rents weekly, the notice period may not be less than seven days.

Condominium Conversion
If a landlord is planning to convert a building into condominium ownership and intends to displace the current tenants, the landlord must give the tenants a substantial amount of advance notice, in some cases up to two years, and the tenants are protected from arbitrary rent increases, given assistance in finding other housing, and paid relocation costs. These protections apply to tenants throughout the state.  In Vermont state law, see: (V.S.A., Title 27: Chapter 15: § 1333- § 1339, Conversion of building; notice to tenants)

In Burlington, the protections for tenants in a condominium conversion situation are even stronger. For more information on the condominium conversion laws, call Vermont Tenants at 802-864-0099, and, in Burlington, The City Attorney’s Office at 802-865-7121.  See Burlington Code of Ordinances: (Chapter 18, Article V. Secs. 300 - 311) (See note on Accessing Burlington’s Laws On-Line)

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