QUESTION: I recently bought an investment property at a foreclosure auction. After taking title, I discovered that people are still living in the home. What do I do now?
ANSWER: Your relationship with the occupants of your new house is governed by the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009. What happens next will depend on who is living in the property as well as what you are intending to do with it.
If the occupants are the former owners or close relatives, you can ask the court to evict them immediately. If they are bona fide tenants, you will have to honor their lease as long as it is from an “arms-length“ transaction and the rent is close to that of similar homes.
If there is no written lease, you need to provide the tenants with at least 90 days’ notice. At the end of this time, you can have them evicted through court action. But before you do any of this, you should try to talk to the occupants to see what their intentions are.
If you are looking to rent the property, the current tenants may be willing to stay on at market rent, saving you the trouble of finding new tenants. If you are looking to flip the property, the tenants may want to buy it, saving you the expense of paying a real estate agent to find a buyer.
Even if you want the tenants out, it’s a good idea to stay friendly with them to ensure a smooth turnover. It may even be wise to offer the occupants money to leave the property in good condition.
Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program. Send him questions online at http://sunsent.nl/mR20t7 or follow him on Twitter GarySingerLaw.
The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.