Thursday, May 14, 2015

Property Rights of Tenants During Foreclosure

It is not uncommon for a home in foreclosure to be occupied by renters rather than the homeowner(s). So what rights do tenants in Florida have in this situation. Historically, they basically had no rights. When the property was sold at public auction, the property had to be vacated by the homeowner and tenant alike. That changed with the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009

This federal law permitted renters with a lease to remain in the property until the expiration of their lease. That period was reduced to just 90 days if the new owner intended to occupy the residence. For those renters leasing mont-to-month, they were permitted to remain in the property for at least 90 days after notice by the new owner. 

Sounds great, right? Well, it was, but unfortunately the Act contained a "sunset" provision which meant it would expire at a certain date unless extended by the United States Congress. The sunset date listed in the Act was December 31, 2014. Congress did not extend the Act and thus renters no longer have the protection of this federal law. A handful of states has enacted similar legislation, but Florida is not one of them as of today, though there has been some effort at doing so. In addition, the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2015 has been proposed in Congress, which would amend the federal Act to eliminate the sunset date and make the Act permanent. Again, thus far, it has not been passed.

For the time being, renters must know that if the house they are living in is foreclosed, they are practically in the same boat as the homeowner once the property is sold - none. Pack up and move, as quickly as you can, to avoid potential financial and legal liabiilty.

Timothy C. Martin, Esq. is the owner/attorney of Martin Law Office, P.A., a solo practitioner law firm in St. Petersburg, Florida. Martin Law's practice areas include Animal Law, Business Law, Estate Planning/Probate, LGBT Advocacy, and Real Estate.