There could be a variety of reasons for wanting to sell your tenant-occupied property. Maybe you’re strapped for cash and need to unload the place to get some equity back. Or maybe you’d rather skip being a landlord and focus your investment elsewhere. Whatever the reason is, selling a property that’s currently got a renter in it can be a challenge if you don’t navigate these waters carefully.
Know Your Rights – and the Rights of the Tenant
As a landlord, you can’t just waltz in to your tenant-occupied property whenever you feel like it. You’ll have to abide by the landlord-tenant laws in your jurisdiction when it comes to showing the property to prospective buyers. Depending on where you live, the rules will vary from one jurisdiction to another.
For example, in certain areas, tenants have the right of first refusal when a property is listed for sale, as well as when an offer comes in. Your best bet is to call the local association or speak with a licensed real estate agent to find out the specific rules in your area about listing your tenant-occupied property for sale and notifying tenants about showings.
Encourage the Tenants to Cooperate
Before even listing your property for sale, it’s recommended that landlords have a chat with the tenants first. This may be a chance to offer the home to the tenant to buy if they’re interested. If not, certain pieces of information should be exchanged with the tenant in order to clarify what is expected of both of you while the property is on the market.
Many tenants are extremely cooperative and will have no problems keeping the place clean and tidy, and being flexible with showing appointments. Others, however, aren’t so apt to comply. While some tenants may actually already have plans to move out, others might be hostile about essentially getting kicked out in order to make way for new owners.
You need to clearly explain what your intentions are and why to your tenants. You’ll also need to communicate to the tenants how and when the property will be shown to prospective buyers. Reassure the tenants that not just anyone off the street will be venturing through their place, and that only buyers with their agents will be allowed access.
Of course, one of the biggest challenges for landlords who are showing a property occupied by tenants is ensuring that the place is neat and tidy at all times. This is a tall order even for owners who are living in the home themselves, let alone for tenants.
So what’s a landlord to do?
This is where money really talks.
Real estate agents suggest giving tenants a monetary incentive to cooperate and keep the place in decent shape by offering a discount on the rent while the property is up for sale. You can choose to shave 25% off the monthly rent until the place is sold, or offer gift cards for gas or groceries.
Such incentives will help encourage tenants to remain flexible about showings and keep on top of cleanliness and tidiness. With rent being as high as it is these days, particularly in metropolitan centers, having the monthly rental price discounted can be a welcomed gift and can fuel cooperation.
Don’t forget that tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment, which includes notifying the tenant before a scheduled showing and getting approval before strolling into the rented premises. Typically, the tenant can’t refuse access to their place for a showing if they’ve been given sufficient notice (usually about 24 hours before the scheduled showing).
If there are only a few months left before the lease expires, you might want to consider waiting until the lease is up and the tenant moves out before starting to show the place for sale. It might make things easier, particularly when it comes to making sure the place is always properly staged, and if you plan on scheduling frequent open houses.
Of course, you’ll have to give the tenants sufficient notice before the date that the lease expires informing them that the premises needs to be vacated as a result of the property hitting the market.
You can absolutely sell your property if your tenant is still living in there, but you need to take a few precautions before and during the selling process. If you have a stellar tenant, great. If not, a little schmoozing might be necessary. Your real estate agent will be able to walk you through the process and make sure no toes are stepped on throughout the entire process.