Signed lease for rental house; current tenants won't move out (need answer fast!)

As if life hasn’t been stressful enough with my dad dying two months ago, now we got word that our new house is not being vacated as planned. In the middle of planning a funeral, my wife and I were (and are) in the process of moving from NYC to Florida. We signed a lease to rent a house down there, put down a deposit, booked the moving van, etc.

Now we just received a phone call from the owner, 26 days before the move date, saying the current tenants are not moving out after all because their loan to buy a new house wasn’t approved by the bank.

What’s the deal here? We have a signed lease; doesn’t that take priority? Or do the current tenants have the right to do this?

I doubt very much that they have the legal right to do this. It may be easier, however, to get your money back and find another house. It can take forever to get these things straightened out.

There are several Dopers on the Board who may be able to point you towards appropriate city and county agencies within Florida, like renter’s rights groups.

Depends on the law where you are moving to, but unfortunately in your situation there may be an important distinction between what the tenants have the legal right to do, and what they will be able to do in practical terms because it takes time for the landlord to extricate them.

What efforts is the owner making to get the tenants out?

That’s the thing, he wants them out! They don’t pay on time, and he was looking forward to having better tenants (in his words) in his house. But their lease isn’t over until June, even though they emailed him with a Feb. 1 move-out date. So he’s afraid to demand they leave, because evictions take a long time and they don’t have to pay rent while it’s in litigation, I guess.

But from my point of view, they emailed so it’s in writing, we signed a lease, boom, it’s over, it’s DONE.

My advise is demand immediate return of your full deposit, any application fee, and a letter voiding your signed lease. Then run far away from this situation. Unfortunately that means finding a new place to rent, but that seems like far less of a hassle than fighting this through.

I see two possibilities: The current tenants refuse to leave, and the landlord is looking at whatever process is required for eviction. That varies from place to place, but could be anything from a few days to months. The scheduled move out date was probably only a few days before your move in date, so the existing tenants may have the right to be there for a few more weeks. As in, the eviction process might not even be able to start until a few days before you plan to move in, and who knows how quick the landlord and courts will be. Not anything you want to be near.

The second possibility is that the landlord is letting the tenants stay, and just reneging on your lease. You could probably fight it, but why bother? If it is the case that the landlord has this much respect for you, why would you want to be their tenants?

The biggest thing I would be worried about at this point isn’t even finding a new place to rent, but getting out of this lease in a timely fashion.

It depends on the wording of the lease. The ones I use don’t have an exit clause for the term of the rental agreement (excepting evictable offenses, and such). So, a tenant can’t just tell me they want out of the lease, and have it take effect. In practice, I’ve had many tenants leave early. In those cases the tenant and I sign an amendment to the lease with a new termination date. I’ve always been very careful to not sign a new lease until the termination amendment has been signed.

So, the current tenants might be under something where they can terminate the lease with 30 day notice, they gave notice, and now need to get out on the date they said. They also might still be under the original lease, and can stay until the end, because no other agreement is in effect. I guess a judge could decide, but I would not want any part of that.

It’s situation like these that make rental property management a nightmare. If the proposed landlord did not take the steps to legally evict the tenants, you have a good lawsuit against him. Get your money back and a letter nullifying the lease and look for another rental, AND file a lawsuit against the proposed landlord for monetary damages.

You might also want to consider that if the current tenant is forced to move out when they don’t want to, then the house may not be left in a move-in ready condition, which would cause further delay. Find another place.

This. The fight is between the landlord and the existing tenants, you don’t want a part of it. I’m in Orlando(ish.) Where are you planning to move to? I know it’s a pain, but get a six month lease for an apartment down here and then take your time to find where you want to live.

Rent another house, and sue the landlord for damages incurred by his breach of the leasehold agreement.

It doesn’t look like Florida allows a no-cause eviction like Portland does (much to our shame), and the eviction process there takes a lot of time. I agree that you should get your money back and move on. Even a no-cause eviction here requires a 60-90 day notice to the tenant.

To me this is a no brainer. Any time I have ever had a landlord complain or have unusual problems with previous tenants I regret signing the lease. I would never rent from any of them again. Bad landlords and bad tenants tend to be a flies and shit situation.
And don’t even think about how cheap the rent is, still not worth it IMHO.

I would agree, this sounds like a fight that only involves you as collateral damage. If the landlord can get it straightened out, great, but if not, don’t invest any of your time or money in trying to work anything out. Just demand your deposit back and void any leases you may have signed with him. Go find somewhere else that is not embroiled.

No good can come of this situation, and it’ll just be frustrating to you at best, potentially harmful at worst.

The current tenants have an older signed lease, and are actually living in the property, so they take priority pretty much everywhere. I suspect the landlord screwed up and based his decision on them saying that they planned to move out instead of them giving formal notice under the terms of the lease, so their lease is still valid until its term runs out (and probably after). If they don’t want to leave, he’ll have to evict them, which may not be legal, and if it is will still take at least 30 days and probably more like 90.

Now the landlord is in breach of his contract with you, so if he doesn’t void everything and refund your money, you can pretty easily sue to make him do it, but you don’t have any rights to the property until the old tenant isn’t a tenant any more. You might be able to sue him for money for additional expenses you incur finding a new place based on relying on his lease, but you’d have to ask a lawyer and the amount is probably too small to be worthwhile.

Lots of places have tenants’ rights laws which are going to work against the landlord (and you) here.
When we bought our house in NJ we let the old owners stay after closing while their delayed new house got finished. We lived in town on a month to month lease, so this was fine with us. Our lawyer carefully structured the agreement so it could not be interpreted as a rental, since that would make it very difficult to evict them if things turned sour. (It didn’t.)
Wash your hands of this deal. And I can’t imagine suing the landlord would be profitable. He doesn’t seem to be acting maliciously in any case.

Just to add, you may want to do a quick look at the laws regarding the collection of deposits in the area where the rental unit is located. In certain circumstances, in certain areas, you can collect triple if the landlord does not return the deposit in a timely manner. It seems apparent to me that the landlord did not follow proper procedures in the matter - a lot of landlords don’t, and the only time you want to have anything to do with these landlords is if you happen to find yourself in a desperate situation; and then you’ll thank the heavens that they exist. Nothing in your OP indicates that you are in any sort of particularly desperate situation. Being poor sucks.

Thanks for the advice, guys. The landlord is definitely on our side and says the law is, too. But I use the term “landlord” lightly; he’s just an old retired guy who rents a house he owns. Very sweet, but not much of a businessman.

He drew up eviction papers and went to the house to give them to the current tenant, and they ended up calling me on speakerphone. We had a 20-minute conversation that was full of anger, calmness, rage, and respect.

Bottom line is he’s not moving out. According to him, he lost a lot of money in escrow trying to buy this new house, and now he can’t afford to move anyway. And he doesn’t want to take his daughter out of school just to move into another rental. He made it clear I could take him to court, but that would take forever and he would “draw it out as long as he could”.

We are devastated; we had been showing pictures of the house to our families for months, imagining how we would decorate, etc. And now we’re in a scramble to find a place we like (long-distance) that’s available in 25 days. ivylass, it’s Vero Beach, but we’ve spent many months there before so we know the town; finding areas we like isn’t really an issue since we already know them.

So, long story short, the current tenant “feels bad” and is offering a settlement of sorts. He’s mailing us a check for our troubles and we’re backing off the situation. We’re looking at the bright side and staying grateful for the unexpected money, and hopeful we can find a place we love just as much as that one.

I’m not sure that this is necessarily true. Getting evicted isn’t a “get out of paying your rent free” card. If they try to fight the eviction, but they aren’t currently paying their rent, I don’t think the judge is going to smile on them. And even if they win the right to continue on their current lease, they’d still owe rent for the months they’ve been withholding. If they’re regularly late paying their rent, Landlord should be able to evict them without much trouble. He should have done it months ago.

Also, it’s nice that Old Tenant wants to offer you money for your troubles, but that doesn’t mean that Landlord, who is the real source of the headache here for not doing things properly, shouldn’t also be offering you a settlement for breaking your lease. He should return your money and cover your expenses (if you have any, like for storage or hotel rooms) while you find a new place. The cost of doing business for Landlord includes the cost of screwing up because he hasn’t managed his business properly.

I think there’s good advice on this thread. Whatever you could in principle do in a legal fight, really the only thing you want to achieve is to get out of this situation cleanly and move on.

I think you really don’t want to get sucked into dealing with the current tenant directly in any way. It has nothing to do with you that the landlord is choosing to try to evict, and frankly I think it’s inappropriate that they called you. Your contract is with the landlord, not the current tenant, and it’s entire his responsibility to resolve matters with you, separately from what he might choose to do with the current tenants. Don’t get dragged into some even more complicated situation where the landlord is trying to solve both his problems by having you negotiate with the current tenant.

You must insist on get an immediate agreement from the landlord, in writing, that your lease is void, along with a refund of your deposit. If that isn’t happening immediately then I’d tell the landlord that you’re calling an attorney. If he’s still not forthcoming I think you must actually call an attorney, since you need to find another place and sign another lease.

I think Riemann is right OP. You seem like a nice person, or at least not an eccesively cutthroat person judging by your behavior in this situation. Most of the time I would think that’s the right way to be and the right approach; but in my experience these particular situations seem to bring out the sliminess even in otherwise good people (even more than other situations involving money in my experience). It’s not to your advantage to take anything other than a calculated and unemotional but professional approach to the situation if your are serious about being made whole again.