Renting Responsibly: How Not to be a Victim of Foreclosure

The business section of the Denver Post included a bit about Fannie Mae signing interim rental contracts with tenants of properties their landlords couldn’t pay for. What does this tell me? A renter doesn’t know the financial position of their landlords. It used to be that was a just fine arrangement, but maybe it is time to reconsider how renter contracts are signed.

I’ve lived with two specifically rocky landlords in my life. One was plagued by having to replace the century old sewer system, and having to raise the rent. Shortly after the job was completed, the place was sold and we had to sign a new contract with the new owner. Since the excavation was occurring in our front yard, it was easy to see the potential financial blow such a project could land on our lessor, so we were relatively prepared for the hike in rent and only mildly surprised at the subsequent sale.

Two years later, we rented from an elderly couple, and the next thing we knew we were paying a property management service instead. The chatty lady behind the management desk informed me one of the previous landlords had died, and that the property was being sold to their son in a different state. The elderly couple had been more than happy to reimburse us for some improvements on the property, but their son was not. We struggled with the tagged-on management fee to the rent in addition to the cost of the repairs we had already done. We managed to move before the property was sold a second time.

Today, these scenarios are playing out across the country: sales on the horizon and financial trouble for those who own the property. Hardworking, prompt-paying renters are being dealt the shoddy hand as there are no buyers and the banks take over. Good renters with steady incomes are finding themselves struggling through no fault of their own.

While the government bailed-out institution Fannie Mae can help some people in the coming months, and Freddie Mac not far behind, what can the rest of the renting population do to ensure they aren’t standing on the soft earth above the invisible hole their landlords are digging?

  • Check the public records of your rental property. The county assessor’s office has records on sales price, owners, tax and purchase information. Is your rent commiserate with a mortgage beginning that sale date for that sale price? Is your rental income enough to cover property taxes, too? If not, you may not be covering the expenses of the owner.
  • If you have a property manager, read your lease or call to determine if the company is legally responsible to you if your lessor goes under. If they are, you may be able to rent under them if you are removed from your home due to foreclosure.
  • Talk to your landlord. Find out if the place you’re renting is paid off or if they’re able to manage the mortgage responsibility. Ask them to call you if there are money problems ahead that may endanger their contract with you.

If you are served with an eviction notice due to foreclosure, there are tips in the article including

    Find out how long you are legally allowed to stay after notice.

  • Find out if the lender is willing to sign a contract, as Fannie Mae is

You have a right to know if the house you’re renting is actually available for you to rent. Just because the place is vacant and someone is willing to sign a contract with you and take your money does not mean that you have a place to live. Being a good tenant is not just about being good to your landlord by paying rent on time, it also means you are good to yourself and your family by making sure there is a solid roof over your head.

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4 Responses to Renting Responsibly: How Not to be a Victim of Foreclosure

  1. justme says:

    I do get your point but there is no way I would discuss my finances with renters

    if you want to be secure and know for sure the safety of your home you need to buy one of your own
    there is always a chance that your landlord will sell the house out from under you , or that his daughter will need a place and you will have to leave

    if you have a good rental history and are a good tenant you will probably have your choice of places

  2. Justin says:

    Finding a great deal on a house to rent is going to have some drawbacks. If one does not like the risk of losing their home because of lack of payment to a bank or selling of a property, then stick with the bigger companies who PROFESSIONALLY handle this kind of business. Though you will pay more it is less likely you will end up in a cardboard box while looking for a new home. Good points on trying to reduce ones exposure though but like the casino higher odds, higher payout.

    Keep on shooting

  3. lainie says:

    I also would not share my financial situation with a tenant. If the tenant pays their full rent on time, and being responsible and honest with the landlord, that goes a long way towards the landlord not losing the rental property to foreclosure. If your potential landlord is elderly, don’t take the place keep looking for something else. Landlords may not even try to hand on to a property if they have a bad tenant. A good tenant is worth their weight in gold

  4. Connedtenant says:

    I think in today’s economy that as a renter, I do have the right to know if the owner/lease holder has forecloser problems looming or current. We just rented a beautiful home, only to find out two months later that the property went for Sheriffs sale 7 months ago. Fannie Mae sent a letter stating they are the owner of this property, and to not pay rent to the prior landlord. I received this posted letter on my front door on Christmas Eve. My original landlord rented this home and no longer had that right. I then investigated this landlord, who happened to own a Realty company, and found he had several homes in foreclosure and was still trying to rent them out. That is not very nice to do someone, especially a family. I have heard that this happens alot around Detroit, Michigan. It is a bit scary on what happens next.

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