Question: My landlord sold our rental unit. Can the new landlord change my lease provisions?
Answer: Unless your original lease contains a provision that states otherwise, the sale of your rental property will not change your original lease terms. The purchasing landlord steps into the shoes of the original landlord and assumes all of the same rights and obligations.
Generally, this means you are still required to pay the new landlord rent and the new landlord is required to provide you with the same services the original landlord was required to provide under your lease terms. The new landlord assumes the original landlord’s role so completely that (s)he is even entitled to sue you for any past rent you may have owed before (s)he purchased the property. Although this rule generally holds true, here are two special situations to keep in mind:
Security Deposit | Tenants have the right to collect their security deposit from the original landlord or the new landlord unless certain statutory provisions are met. The original landlord can only end his or her liability for your security deposit if: (1) (S)he transfers the security deposit to the new landlord and notifies you or (2) (S)he returns your security deposit back to you. If either of these provisions are met, you can only collect your security deposit from the new landlord.
Lease Provisions | Some lease provisions may alter or terminate your lease if the rental property is sold to a new owner. If this is the case, the lease provision becomes the controlling law and it may limit your rights to the property. In some cases, the new landlord may even have the right to terminate your tenancy and evict you from the property if you refuse to leave voluntarily.
The above describes your general rights, but please contact a local attorney to discuss your particular legal question. These general rules may be modified or changed based on the facts of your case.
Question: When will my security deposit be refunded?
Answer: In California, landlords have 21 days from the time the lease terminates to either refund a tenant's security deposit or provide the tenant with an itemized list of cleaning and repair deductions that reduce the amount refunded. If the landlord withholds any portion of the security deposit, he or she must also prove that the amount withheld was reasonable based on the landlord's costs.
Unlike rent, which is owed to the landlord and becomes the landlord's property, security deposits remain the tenant's property unless the tenant fails to pay his or her rent or damages the property. Landlords are not allowed to require a nonrefundable security deposit and must hold the deposit for the tenant throughout the lease term.
In addition, California law does not give landlords complete discretion over how the security deposit may be used. Landlords may only keep funds from the security deposit to:
Before a tenant moves out, he or she has the right to request an initial move-out inspection. This inspection gives the tenant the opportunity to fix any deficiencies in the property (clean, repair, etc) before having the amount deducted from his or her security deposit.
California law includes many other provisions that clarify and limit these general security deposit rights, so please consult an attorney if you have further questions on this issue.
Emil Dixon is the founder of the Davis Legal Center, a private law office located in Davis, California.