Leases run with properties, not with owners. With few exceptions, tenants have the right to occupy property according to the terms of their lease regardless of any ownership change. Conversely, new owners who inherit tenants must honor the term of the lease. Most states have ordinances that spell out when and why a landlord can evict his tenant. Typically, these ordinances deal with tenant breach. Some, but not all, states allow owner move-In evictions, which require tenants to move out if the landlord wants to move in.
Commit to Moving In
Because owner move-Ins are unfair to tenants, the states and municipalities that permit them set strict requirements. For example, in California the owner must move in within three months and reside in the premises as his primary place of residence for at least 36 continuous months after the eviction. The landlord must offer the tenant comparable premises within his property portfolio. You'll have to serve minimum notice of, typically, 30 to 60 days. Certain classes of tenants may be protected, and the tenant usually has the right to reoccupy the property if you move out.
Fork Out the Cash
Depending on your state, you may have to pay relocation benefits to any tenant you evict for an owner move-in. Minimum rates are set by the city or state, and in some jurisdictions the tenant can negotiate more. You'll typically pay half the benefit when you serve the eviction notice and the remainder when the tenant vacates. You must still follow local rules about returning the tenant's security deposit.
Make Someone's Month
If your tenant has a periodic tenancy, you can evict him at any time without reason. Most states require you to serve a "notice to quit" in such circumstances. Generally speaking, the length of the notice is the period of the tenancy. For example, if your tenant has a month-to-month tenancy, you must give him 30 days' notice to quit, although some states specify a longer notice period. Periodic tenancies can be written or oral. With an oral agreement, the rent payment days determine the period of the tenancy; if your tenant pays monthly, he has a month-to-month tenancy.
Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
If you need urgent vacant possession, you can always negotiate with the tenant to move out before the lease comes to an end. This applies whether or not your locality permits owner move-in eviction. If you have yet to buy tenanted property that you want to occupy, you can include a contingency in the purchase contract requiring the seller to terminate the lease before closing. If the deal is worth it, your seller -- or you -- can secure the tenant's cooperation with a relocation allowance or other incentive to leave.
Jayne Thompson earned an LLB in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LLM in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “big law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous financial blogs including Wealth Soup and Synchrony. Find her at www.whiterosecopywriting.com.