Imagine you’re a renter. You’ve been paying your rent faithfully every month. Then you come home from work one day to find an eviction notice on your door. Your landlord has defaulted on the property, a bank is the new landlord, and they’re forcing you to get out. What do you do?

For the past two years, the headlines have been dominated about housing foreclosures. One of the aspects of the foreclosure crisis that has received very little attention, however, is the role that rental properties have played in the housing slump. Many landlords have seen their properties go into foreclosure, and as a result, many tenants have found themselves in very dire straights. In Minneapolis alone, 65% of foreclosures have been on rental properties. Nationwide, it is estimated that 40% of people to lose their homes to foreclosure are renters. And according to a report by the Center for Responsible Lending, the number of rental properties going into foreclosure is expected to rise.

Fortunately, renters have very specific rights when it comes to the foreclosure process, thanks to a bill passed in April.

Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009
According to the Protesting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009, banks or owners who obtain a property through the foreclosure process do not have the right to evict a tenant if a lease is still in effect. The exception is if the new owner wants to live in the property. In this case, tenants have to be served 90 days notice – which is much longer than the typical eviction process. In summary:

  • Leases would survive a foreclosure — meaning the tenant could stay at least until the end of the lease.  The lease survives and ends as it would had there been no foreclosure.
  • Month-to-month tenants would be entitled to 90 days’ notice before having to move out
  • Any state legislation that is more generous to tenants will not be preempted by the federal law
  • These protections apply to Section 8 tenants, too

Relocation Assistance
If Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac owns the mortgage on a foreclosed property, renters should consider themselves lucky. Both agencies have vowed to assist renters with the relocation process by providing money to help renters pay security deposits and first months’ rent on a new place to live. The only way that a tenant would know the details of their landlords’ mortgage is to wait for Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac to contact them. That can be a bit unsettling, because you may not have an exact time frame for that knock on the door. One real estate appraiser I talked to said that their office is so backlogged with foreclosed properties that it can often take 9-12 months before Fannie Mae takes action on a foreclosed property. However, the standard is that Fannie Mae will contact the tenant within 30 days of the property going into foreclosure.

To find out if you are eligible for rental or relocation assistance from Fannie Me, click here. Although Fannie Mae will allow you to sign a new month-to-month lease in order to keep people on the property, you should be aware that the property will be on the market, and that you would have to be willing to allow real estate agents to show the home.

If you’re living in a rental property that has undergone foreclosure, here’s wishing you the best as you and your family relocate.

Additional Resources:
NOLO
Legal Assistance Resource Center