Following foreclosure, can new owner raise tenant's rent?

May 14, 2013 17:54 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

The house we rent was foreclosed on and then sold by the bank. There are still 6 months left on the lease and the new owners want to raise the rent and get a new security deposit (even though our original deposit was not returned). Is this legal?  If not, whom should I contact to resolve the issue?              

Consumer Ed says: 

The Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), a federal law, specifically addresses your issue.  The PTFA was signed into law on May 20, 2009 and protects tenants when the property they rent is sold at a foreclosure sale.  The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act extended the PTFA protections until December 31, 2014.   Even though the PTFA is a federal law, it still applies to state court eviction proceedings.

If you originally entered into your lease before the notice of foreclosure, then the new owners bought the property subject to your rights as a tenant.  In other words, your lease did not end when the property was sold at foreclosure, and the new owners must recognize your original lease.  If the new owners will not use the house as their primary residence, then they must allow you to stay in the house and pay rent until the end of your original lease.  However, the new owners only have to give you 90 days’ notice to vacate the property if they are in fact going to occupy the house (you’d still have 90 days to vacate, even if there were less than 90 days remaining on your lease).

While you remain in the house (either for the remainder of your lease or for the 90 days), the new owners cannot raise your rent or require a new security deposit.  You will still have to pay rent, but you will pay the same rent required under your original lease to the new owners of the house.  If you don’t pay rent, the new owners can go to court to have you evicted; they can also have you evicted if you stay in the house after your lease expires (or after the 90 days’ notice period).
 
If the new owners continue to insist that you pay additional rent and/or an additional security deposit, you should contact an attorney to address your specific case.  The State Bar of Georgia (404-527-8700 or 800-334-6865) can give you information to help you locate an attorney, or you could contact your local Georgia Legal Services Program office (www.glsp.org).  You may also pursue an issue with your landlord on your own through the local magistrate court.  In the event you cannot afford an attorney, you may want to contact an organization that deals with landlord-tenant disputes, like Atlanta Legal Aid (www.atlantalegalaid.org).

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How much can a landlord charge for move-in/move-out fees?

April 4, 2013 18:15 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

In searching for a house to rent for myself and my 18 year-old son, I have encountered application fees of up to $50 per adult living in the house.   They also require a move-out fee.  Is there any limit as to how much a landlord can charge for these types of fees?

Consumer Ed says: 

No, there is no limit as to what a landlord can charge for these fees under Georgia or Federal law.  If you think a particular fee is unreasonable, your only recourse is not to apply to rent that landlord’s rental property.  When deciding whether a particular fee is reasonable, you should ask the landlord or leasing company to explain the reason for these charges.

Landlords who charge an application fee typically use this money to pay for the cost of running a credit check and criminal background check on the applicant(s). This fee is usually not refundable if your application is denied.  To potentially cut down on this cost, you can obtain your credit report and bring a copy with you when you are negotiating your lease.  The landlord is not required to accept your offered report as an alternative to running his own credit check, but if he agrees to accept it you could save yourself some money.  Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the nationwide credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — every 12 months upon your request.  To obtain your free credit report, visit annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. You may also complete an Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to:

    Annual Credit Report Request Service
    P.O. Box 105281
    Atlanta, GA 30348-5281

Move-out fees are less common, but may be charged as long as the fee is included in the lease and the landlord is consistent in charging all tenants a move-out fee. If the landlord charges some tenants this fee, but not others, he might be in violation of the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discriminating against any person in the terms, conditions, or privileges of a rental on the basis of race, color, religion, familial status, or national origin.  If you think that you have been the victim of such housing discrimination, you can file a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development at http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/topics/housing_discrimination.

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Landlord late refunding security deposit

March 29, 2013 17:58 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

If my landlord is late paying me my due full security deposit, can I charge him interest?

Consumer Ed says: 

If a landlord is wrongfully withholding your security deposit, you may file a lawsuit to recover it.  In the lawsuit, you can attempt to recover your security deposit, interest on the amount while it was wrongfully withheld, attorney fees, and the cost of filing the legal action.

In addition to the security deposit, interest, and fees, you may be able to recover three times the amount of the deposit if your landlord owns more than ten units or uses a third party to manage the units.  Before filing suit, however, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options.

Under Georgia law, all landlords must return a security deposit within 30 days after the termination of the lease or the surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last.  If the security deposit is held because of damage to the unit, the landlord must send the tenant notice within 30 days identifying the damage, the estimated dollar amount of the damage, and a refund, if any, of the difference between the security deposit and the amount withheld for damages.  Finally, you should know that the security deposit, and any statement accompanying it, must be mailed to the last known address of the tenant (even if that address is the vacated rental property); if it is returned as undeliverable and the landlord is unable to locate the tenant after a reasonable effort, the security deposit becomes the property of the landlord 90 days after it was mailed.

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