mortgage

Renters get relief from foreclosure

Highlights
  • Renters will have up to 90 days to move out after a foreclosure.
  • "Sweetheart deals" between landlords and renters won't qualify.
  • State law still governs last-month's rent and security deposit.

A new federal law offers renters more protection from eviction if their landlord loses the property through foreclosure. The law has some fuzzy requirements, but should be a boon to renters who otherwise might have been evicted with little or no notice.

"The fundamental purpose of the Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act is to ensure that tenants facing eviction from a foreclosed property have adequate time to find alternative housing. To that end, the law establishes a minimum time period that the tenant can remain in a foreclosed property before eviction," a Federal Reserve memorandum states.

The national foreclosure crisis has not been kind to renters, despite their seeming bystander status. Indeed, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, or NLIHC, in Washington, D.C., has estimated that some 40 percent of households that have lost their home due to foreclosure have been renters.

The new law should provide some relief from immediate evictions, according to NLIHC President Sheila Crowley.

"This bill brings long overdue relief for the most blameless victims of the foreclosure crisis -- the families who, after paying their rent each month, are suddenly told they must move out of the homes because their landlords have been foreclosed on," Crowley said in a statement.

Renters will get 90 days' notice

The new law allows tenants who have a lease to remain in their home until the end of the lease period, unless a new owner purchases the home at a foreclosure sale and intends to occupy it as a personal residence. In that case, the renter can be evicted with 90 days' notice even if a longer-term lease is in force.

A rare but potentially important exception occurs if the renter signed the lease before the owner obtained the foreclosed loan. In that case, the lease will still "survive" the foreclosure, according to Janet Portman, an attorney and author of "Every Tenant's Legal Guide," published by Nolo Press in Berkeley, Calif.

Tenants who don't have a lease also are entitled to 90 days' notice prior to eviction under the new law.

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Technically, the law applies only to "any foreclosure on a federally related mortgage loan." That requirement shouldn't be a burden for tenants because, as Portman explains, the definition of "federally related" encompasses virtually all loans.

The law became effective May 20 and is scheduled to sunset Dec. 31, 2012.

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