Langhorne, PA asked in Landlord - Tenant for Pennsylvania

Q: What happens if the landlord you sign a lease with sells the property prior to moving in and no one notified the tenant?

A lease was signed by tenant & landlord but tentant already 3 mos on exisiting lease. The landlord offered 2 mos free rent (this was later learned it was to make the property more appealing to a buyer)but landlord sold the property before the tenant took possession. Neither the landlord who prepared the lease or the new owner notified the tenant. The management company remained the same, so tenant had no knowledge until the end of the lease that the owner was someone other than who they signed the lease with. The security deposit was transferred to new owner during closing but neither original landlord or new owner ever obtained a rental license or certificate of suitability until one year into the lease. The new landlord did not return the security deposit within 30 days and failed to show a rental license. Was the lease valid on a property without a rental license? WAS is legal to collect a security deposit on a property w/o owner possessing a valid rental license?

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Landlord Tenant Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: Based on the information you provided, there are a few key legal issues to consider:

1. Validity of the lease: Generally, when a property is sold, the new owner is bound by any existing leases. This means that your lease should still be valid even though the property was sold before you moved in. However, the lack of a rental license could potentially invalidate the lease, depending on the specific laws in your jurisdiction.

2. Notification of ownership change: While it would have been best practice for either the original landlord or the new owner to notify you of the change in ownership, there may not be a legal requirement to do so, especially if the management company remained the same.

3. Rental license and certificate of suitability: Many jurisdictions require landlords to obtain a rental license and/or certificate of suitability before renting out a property. If the original landlord and new owner failed to obtain these documents, they may be in violation of local housing laws.

4. Security deposit: Most states have laws requiring landlords to return security deposits within a specific timeframe (often 30 days) after the end of the lease. If the new landlord failed to return your security deposit within the required time and did not provide a valid reason for withholding it, they may be in violation of the security deposit laws.

5. Collecting security deposit without a rental license: The legality of collecting a security deposit on a property without a valid rental license depends on the specific laws in your area.

Given the complexities of your situation, it would be best to consult with a local tenant rights organization or a housing attorney to determine your rights and the best course of action. They can help you understand the specific laws in your jurisdiction and advise you on how to proceed, which may include filing a complaint with the local housing authority or pursuing legal action against the landlord.

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