Can a Landlord Sell a House During a Lease?

As a landlord in Massachusetts, it is important to understand your rights and obligations when it comes to selling a rental property that is currently occupied by tenants. Can a landlord sell a house during the term of a lease? The short answer is yes, but there are specific laws and regulations to keep in mind and requirements that must be followed.

for sale sign in front of MA colonial home

First and foremost, it is important to understand the lease agreement between the landlord and the tenant. The lease agreement outlines the rights and obligations of both parties, including what happens to the lease agreement if the property is sold. In general, a lease agreement is binding until the end of the lease term, even if the property is sold during that time. Keep in mind that a tenant with a fixed term or self-extending annual lease will have different rights than a tenant under a tenancy-at-will.

As a starting point, when selling a rental property in Massachusetts, the landlord should provide notice to the tenant of their intention to sell. Next the seller should decide if they are going to try to sell the property while the tenants continue to occupy the property or wait until the property is vacant. Generally, tenancy-at-will agreements can be terminated with proper notice- usually 30 or 60 days. However, a tenancy under a fixed term annual lease cannot be terminated unless both parties agree to terminate early.

In cases where the tenant will remain during the sale, the tenant maintains all their rights to use property and their right to privacy. The landlord is required to maintain the property and the tenant must provide reasonable access to the property for the landlord to show it to prospective buyers and to make repairs. It is important to have a conversation in advance with the tenant to determine how and when showings or access to the property will happen.  

In addition, a new owner who purchases a home with existing tenants must pay very close attention to the requirements in Massachusetts law pertaining to new owners handling of the security deposit and last month’s rent. Equally important, a new owner will want to know the status of lead paint in the property if it was built before 1978. These are all considerations for the seller to think about before putting the property on the market. 

In conclusion, while a landlord in Massachusetts can sell a house during a lease, they must follow specific laws and regulations to ensure that the tenant’s rights are protected during the sale process. Understanding these laws and regulations is important for both landlords and tenants to ensure a smooth and fair process.