RE Q&A: If Ending a Lease, Do It Right

A new company isn’t renewing leases to upgrade units, and it’s offering affected tenants a new unit for more money. But tenants might have other options.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Question: I have been living in the same large rental community for the last decade. The complex was sold to a new company that is renovating units as the current renters move out and then reletting them at a much higher price. I recently learned they are not renewing people’s leases. Instead, they are offering tenants to move into one of the renovated units at a higher rent.

Is there anything I can do to stay in my unit at the current price when I come up for renewal? – Neil

Answer: When figuring out your rights as a tenant, the first step is to review your lease agreement carefully. A lease binds the landlord and tenant to what was agreed upon and cannot be changed unilaterally. If a landlord sells the rented property, the new landlord is bound to the same terms as before.

If your lease allows you to renew, the already agreed-on renewal terms will apply.

However, most residential leases are not actually renewable. Instead, they expire after a year, and the landlord and tenant enter a new, similar lease. It sounds like this is your situation.

When your current lease expires, you must negotiate a new one.

Even under normal circumstances, starting this process a few months in advance is best so that you can make alternate living arrangements if necessary. In many places, a landlord must give advance notice, usually two or three months, if the rent is going to be raised by more than a small amount or if the landlord does not intend to offer their tenant another lease.

Because this varies from county to county and sometimes by city, you will need to check to see what applies where you live. You should be able to find this information by calling your city and county or searching the internet.

Since you know this may be a problem, reach out to your landlord to discuss your options.

Given your long tenure, your new landlord may be willing to work with you to come up with a solution you can both accept.

If not, you will have the maximum time to find a new place to live.

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