Renters, know your rights in a foreclosure

Renters, know your rights in a foreclosure »Play Video
Donna Baltins and her husband thought everything was fine with the home they rented last winter. The couple had just had their second child, relatives were coming for the holidays. Then out of the blue, they got a call from someone telling them to get out.

"One night we got a call from our landlord saying we had to get out in 30 days it was going into foreclosure next day, there was a big notice on the door," said Baltins. "It was a notice of foreclosure telling us the house was going up for auction."

Stunned and panicked, the family scrambled to find another place to live.

They're not alone. Across the country, housing experts say landlords and banks are violating foreclosure laws by failing to notify tenants about foreclosure proceedings and giving misleading and false information.

Common complaints include illegal evictions, illegal seizure of tenant property, and deceptive "cash for keys" offers that pay a fraction of what tenants should be getting in exchange for moving out.

The Baltins discovered their landlord had stopped making mortgage payments 6 months before he caught them off guard. Donna Baltin had no idea she had the legal right to stay.

Under federal law - renters must get a minimum of 90 days notice 'after' the sale of the foreclosed property.

Washington state law is even stronger. Renters must get a minimum of 90 days notice prior to a potential foreclosure sale- and a minimum of 60 days notice after the property is sold.

While the laws would not have changed the fact that Donna and her family had to move, knowing their rights would have given them at least three months to do what they were forced to do in 30 days.

As for finding out if your landlord's about to default, go online every couple of months and verify the ownership of the property with your County Assessor's office. You can do a parcel search by entering the address.

If the property goes into default, you'll eventually see a notice of sale on the record. If that happens, contact your landlord to get more information, and contact the trustee to make sure they know you are a tenant in the property. Often banks are not aware the foreclosed property is occupied by renters. Just make sure you review the state and federal laws so you know your rights.

Because of all the fraud surrounding foreclosed properties, it's also important to verify ownership to make sure you're not dealing with a scammer who claims to be the new owners.

For more information:

Washington Law Help

Foreclosure Time Lines

Report: Some progress on renters' rights in foreclosure; much more to be done

NLIHC: Renters in Foreclosure