real estate

6 reality checks for accidental landlords

To avoid this, Severance suggests giving tenants a reason to help. "You could offer to knock off $100 or $200 from the monthly rent if they let buyers see the home," she says. "Ask them to make sure the interior is clean and shows well. It would be worth every penny."

Leasing could delay a sale

If you eventually find a buyer for the property, you may have to wait until the lease is up before you can close the deal, Severance says. "A lease supersedes a sale. If you find an eligible buyer, you can't violate the terms of the rental agreement to kick out your tenant," she says.

One exception could be if the buyer wants to buy your home as an investment property. In that case, the buyer may then allow the tenant to remain in the property for the rest of the lease term, Severance says.

You'll have to switch insurance

If you move out of your home, you must notify your insurance agent. You'd likely have to buy a landlord policy, Montanaro says.

This type of insurance covers the house and could reimburse owners for lost rental income due to building damage. The policy can also reimburse legal fees and liability protection if a tenant were to become injured in the home, says Loretta Worters, a vice president with the Insurance Information Institute, a trade group in New York City.

"Landlord policies generally cost about 25 percent more than a standard homeowners policy because landlords need more protection than a typical homeowner," Worters says.

You may not be able to buy a new home

If you have a mortgage on your old home, it could affect your ability to get a mortgage on a new one after you move, Baytoff says, because debts would be high relative to income.

When homeowners' debt ratios are too high, they have a difficult time getting a mortgage on another home, even if they have rental income on the first property, he says.

And that means those owners must become renters.

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