Whether you're buying or renting, your house is your home. You have a reasonable right to privacy and enjoyment of the property, even when your landlord decides to sell. As jarring as the news may be that your home is about to go on the market, every state provides its own tenants-rights laws designed to protect you during the process.
Notice of Sale
Your landlord must give you notice that the house is on the market and must inform you in writing that for the next 120 days you may be asked to show the property. If your landlord has not given you this advance written notice, you have absolutely no obligation to allow anyone in to look at the property. If you first learn of the home sale through neighbors or by noticing that a "For Sale" sign was suddenly planted in your yard, your landlord must still notify you in writing if he expects you to cooperate.
Notice of Showings
Once you signed a lease with your landlord. you had a reasonable expectation of privacy. You knew that she was allowed to enter the premises in the event of an emergency or to make pre-planned improvements, but it probably never occurred to you that you would be asked to keep the house in picture-perfect condition so that real estate agents could traipse in and out with potential buyers. The truth is, you have the upper hand legally. You must be given a 24-hour notice that the house is to be shown. No one can legally require you to prepare in any particular way or to leave the room or the property while your landlord is showing it. If your landlord or an agent rings your doorbell without the requisite 24-hour notice, you are within your rights to tell him to make an appointment and come back later.
Normal Business Hours
Real estate agents and their clients like to look at properties during evening and weekend hours. However, you have no obligation to allow them to do so. When a tenant-occupied home is being shown, it is only to be made available during regular business hours. This means Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Regular business hours excludes holidays. You are within your rights to deny access to the home outside of these hours.
If the home is being shown because your landlord is losing it to foreclosure, you're now protected from having to move out. A law was passed on May 20, 2009 called the "Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009." This law states that your lease survives a foreclosure, meaning that you can stay until the end of your lease, even if your landlord has lost the house. If you're a month-to-month tenant, you have 90 days before having to move out. You will likely make your rent payment directly to the lender during this time. Do not continue to make them to your landlord until you've spoken with the lender to be clear that you're paying the right party.
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images