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Rent Coach: The co-op I'm renting just sold. Do I have to move?

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Q. I have been renting a co-op apartment for the past 14 months in the West Village.  After my one-year lease ended, my landlord and I agreed that we would go month-to-month. However, his broker called me last week to tell me that my landlord has decided to sell the apartment to a neighbor. 

Do I have to move out and if so, when?

A. When a property owner sells their property, they only have the right to sell the interest that they currently possess in that property.  If the real estate is encumbered by a lease, then the seller can only sell the property with the tenant in place. 

The new owner cannot terminate the lease prematurely but can collect rent from the tenant and gains possession when the lease comes to its natural end. 

That being said, you are on a month-to-month lease now, so either you or the owner (current or future) may terminate the lease upon thirty days notice. 

Unless the buyer intends to buy your apartment as an investment property, they will likely not agree to close on the sale until you have vacated the propert, because buying an NYC apartment with a tenant in place when you intend to move in can sometimes turn out to be a mess resulting in eviction proceedings, ruined personal plans, and thousands of dollars in unanticipated expenses.  That's why most attorneys advise buyers to insist that an existing tenant vacate the property prior to the closing. 

You need to speak directly with your landlord to determine what’s going on with the sale.  If the buyer intends to rent the apartment to you, you can continue on a month-to-month basis after the closing or contact the new landlord to negotiate a longer term lease. 

If the buyer does not want to rent the apartment to you, you need ask your landlord how long you will have to vacate the property (remember, it cannot be less than one month).  If the closing will not occur for multiple months, you may be able to take all of that time to locate a new apartment. 

Either way, make sure the terms of the sale are clear so that you can prepare accordingly, and ask the landlord to e-mail you confirmation of the resolution you agree to. 


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.   

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