My boss, Carlos Aguilar, real estate agent extraordinaire (he pays me to say things like that), receives countless emails and calls from renters saying, my landlord is in foreclosure, what are my options? Most feel that they’re being left in the dark, trying to figure out what they need to do and what they’re options are. One such email he recently received was from a woman who found out her landlord was being foreclosed on when the homeowners Association for the complex called her and told her. And since the landlord was no longer paying her HOA fees, the HOA requested that the she pay THEM her rent.
I can imagine that it’s quite unnerving when out of the blue, you get a call from someone you don’t know telling you all this. It’s the kind of call where you hang up and say, “What the F*CK?” Then you try and contact someone…anyone who might have some information on what’s going on, and no one can tell you a thing. So, if you are a renter and your landlord is being foreclosed on, let me help ease your mind. This article is about what to anticipate when your landlord faces foreclosure and what your options are.
A few days after the Trustee Sale (foreclosure) occurs, someone will be knocking at your door inquiring about whom you are and the names of any other occupants. This person represents the bank that now owns the property you are occupying. If you are not home, they will post a notice on the door asking you to contact them. This notice may sound harsh, and may even sound like an eviction notice, but it is not. It is simply an initial attempt to impress upon you the seriousness of the situation and to make you aware that the property is now owned by a bank and their purpose is to gather information. The new owners need to know who you are and what your intentions are. For the most part, they will want the property to be vacant as quickly as possible. The one exception to that is Fannie Mae, who, if they are the new owners, may give the option to some tenants to continue to rent the property. But almost all other lenders are not willing to rent the property and will assign it to an eviction attorney to begin the eviction process.
The eviction attorney (or someone representing them) will present you with a notice alerting you that you have 90 days to vacate the property. Depending on how fast the eviction attorney begins the case, this notice may not come for weeks (sometimes even up to a month) after the house has already been foreclosed on. NOTE: Despite what your former owner’s HOA tells you, you DO NOT owe them any money.
The Bank, AKA the new owner, will usually offer you cash to entice you to move out and waive the 90 day eviction period. The sooner you move out, the more money the bank is willing to offer you to help with your relocation costs. Typically, if you agree to move out in the first 30 days, the bank may be willing to pay you a fee of $3000-$4000. If you move out within 60 days, this amount is reduced substantially, and if you move out towards the end of the 90 days, you most likely will not be offered any money. The reason the banks are willing to offer you a relocation fee is to offset the cost of having to pay legal fees to have you evicted. And the sooner you are out of the property, the sooner they can put it on the market for sale. And they are EAGER to sell those properties.
Whatever you do, don’t play dumb and pretend like nothing is happening (see The Life and Time of an REO Field Agent: Part III). Talk to the bank, let them know what you intend to do. Will you take the full 90 days to find a new place and move? Or will you take the cash for keys and move out sooner? Depending on how much the banks offer you in the form of cash for keys, it might make sense to get out fast if you are able. If the amount is minimal, it makes sense to use those 90 days of living rent free to search for a new place.
Any way you slice it, it’s not your fault that your landlord got foreclosed on. Don’t take the eviction as a personal attack. It is without a doubt a large inconvenience, but the sooner you address the situation, the sooner you’ll be living in a new place. And who knows, maybe you will even make out with a little extra cash in the process.
By Andrew Brentan