Selling a rental property with tenants in California can be a tricky process, but it’s not impossible if you need to sell your house fast. As a landlord, you’ll need to navigate the legal requirements for giving notice to your tenants, as well as the rights they have during the sale. Additionally, you’ll need to balance the needs of your tenants with the interests of potential buyers.

In this article, we’ll cover the steps you’ll need to take to successfully sell your rental property with tenants in California, from preparing the property for sale to closing the deal. We’ll also discuss the legal requirements for giving notice to tenants, as well as the rights tenants have during the sale.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the legal notice requirements for selling a tenant-occupied rental property in California, which is currently 60 days written notice before the end of the lease term, or 60 days written notice before the end of the rental period, for month-to-month agreements.
  • Respect tenants’ privacy and rights during the showing and open house process.
  • Be aware of the tenants’ rights to continue living in the property for the duration of their lease, unless the new owner intends to occupy the property themselves.
  • Be aware of any state or local laws and regulations that pertain to the sale of tenant-occupied rental properties, including COVID-19 Moratoriums that may apply to your County, consult a lawyer or local housing authority to ensure compliance.
  • Communicate effectively and openly with tenants throughout the sale process.
  • Be aware of any financial incentives or relocation assistance available for tenants that are displaced due to the sale of the property, consult a lawyer or local housing authority to understand what is available.
  • Strike a balance between making the property attractive to potential buyers and maintaining a good relationship with tenants.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to sell your property with minimal disruption to your tenants, and without any legal issues.

Before we get started, take a look at the Table of Contents below and be sure to check out our Frequently Asked Questions inside, for quick answers to your questions.

Selling Your Rental Property With Tenants California

If you’re thinking of selling a house fast with tenants, these questions and more will need to be understood and answered before work can begin on selling your rental property. Today we’ll cover this topic in depth.

We’ll explain the relevant laws and regulations to help you through the process as smoothly as possible and avoid any of the mistakes that could cause you to lose income or even the sale of your property.


See Also: Is Now the Right Time to Sell My Rental Property in California?


What to Know about Lease Agreements and ‘Just Cause’ in California

There are two ways that tenants may rent your property. These are standard fixed-term leases and month-to-month agreements which may or may not be in writing. Regardless of which category you fit into, there are still possible ways to provide notice to vacate and begin the process of selling your rental property if you have a relatively new tenant or can establish just cause.

Fixed Term Lease

Usually around 12 months in length, this contract specifies the start and end date of the tenancy as well as the amount the tenant has to pay and on what schedule (usually monthly).

In California, generally, if you have a tenant occupied property with a valid rental agreement and it has been occupied for more than 12 months, they cannot be removed from the property unless you can establish just cause.

Month-to-Month

If your tenants lease expires, or if you never signed a rental agreement, California law considers this to be a month-to-month lease which is automatically renewed until either party submits notice of lease termination.

Because of this, you will still need to provide just cause if your tenant has occupied the property legally for longer than 12 months. Below we will cover just cause and how and why you may need to prove it.

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Just Cause – What You Need to Know

California has some of the most tenant-friendly law anywhere in the country. This is largely due to the just cause requirement for notices to quit a rental property.

rental-friendly-landlord-friendly-states

You can give notices to vacate which are predicated on some form of just cause. These are fairly straightforward situations where a tenant has violated the lease term in some way.

You can use these violations to establish just cause.

Examples of just cause in which the tenant is at-fault would be:

  • Defaulted Rent Payments
  • Breach of the Lease Terms
  • Illegal Activity on the Investment Property
  • Being a Nuisance or Delinquent tenant.
  • Subletting in Violation of the Lease
  • Refusing to Allow the Owner to Enter the Property After Proper Notice

Keep in mind that, even if an existing tenant has committed actions that might constitute just cause, you may still be required to give the tenant a chance to cure the error, pursuant to paragraph (3) of Section 1161 of the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Even if a tenant hasn’t committed any lease violations, you still may establish just cause to provide notice to vacate.

In California, it’s possible to establish what’s called a no-fault just cause, in which the tenant has not committed any lease violations but still must vacate the property.

Even if a Tenant hasn’t committed any lease violations, you still may establish Just Cause to provide notice to vacate.

Doug & Andrea Van Soest

Here are a few examples of no-fault just cause:

  • Intent to Occupy: If you (or the new owner) intend to occupy the home yourself, or have your spouse, domestic partner, children, grandchildren, parents, or grandparents occupy the home, you can cite this as just cause and provide a notice to vacate even with a valid current lease agreement.
  • Intent to Demolish or Substantially Remodel: Substantial renovations or new builds are just cause for removal of tenants according to California law.
  • Withdrawal from the Rental Market for Any Reason: If, for any reason, you’re no longer interested in renting out the property to anyone, you can cite this as just cause and give notice to vacate.
  • Compliance With Change in Laws or Regulations: If the rules change and your property is no longer habitable as determined by law, this is considered a no-fault just cause.
  • Compliance With Change in Laws or Regulations: If the rules change and your property is no longer habitable as determined by law, this is considered a no-fault just cause.

One Important Note About Just cause: Once you’ve established just cause, you may provide notice to your tenant to move out.

However, if it is a no-fault just cause as described above, you will be required to either waive the final month of rent or provide a one-time relocation assistance payment equal to the amount of one month’s rent. This will not apply if the tenant has to move out due to conditions they caused.

Without just cause, if the tenant has lived in your property for more than 12 months, you may need to review your lease agreement to see if there is any clause which allows for early termination. This will probably cost you but can be an invaluable clause and is worth considering when crafting any lease agreement.

If you’re unable to establish just cause, it may be necessary to wait until the end of the valid lease agreement to ask the tenant to vacate. Use this time to prepare in advance for your sale and ensure you provide notice at least 60 days in advance of the proposed date of termination.

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Selling a rental in California can be stressful especially with uncooperative tenants. If you want to sell without the stress, hassle and headache of listing, Realtors and dealing with Tenants we can help! Receive a guaranteed all cash offer within 48 hours and close on your home within 7 days. You may be one click away from your next business venture.

How to Smooth Over the Sales Process with Your Tenant

selling-rental-property-talking-tenants

Depending on the situation with your existing tenants, this may be the most crucial step to a smooth sales process.

It can be an awkward conversation, but keep in mind that if your tenants have lived on the property for more than 12 months, they’re entitled to just cause protection under California civil code, as described above. This can make it difficult to remove the tenant since just cause is not always readily available.

In these cases, it may be necessary to negotiate with your tenants and try and convince them to leave without forcing it. Here are a few strategies you might employ for this purpose:

Give Tenants Ample Notice of Your Intent to Sell

Waiting until the last moment to notify your tenants that you’re selling the property may cause undue stress and confusion to them. This will likely create an uncooperative Tenant if you, or the prospective buyer, cannot produce just cause to remove the tenant.

So it’s important to respect your tenant’s schedule. You will also need some degree of cooperation from them if you plan to show your rental house to prospective buyers.

Keep in mind that tenants aren’t required to vacate the property while you’re showing it, and a disgruntled tenant is the last thing you want around people who are just trying to shop for a home.

Keep in mind that Tenants are not required to vacate the property while you are showing it, and a disgruntled tenant is the last thing you want around people who are just trying to shop for a home.

Doug & Andrea Van Soest

On the other hand, notifying them well in advance (at least 120 days) will show them respect by giving them time to plan to move. Showing good-faith behavior like this will make it easier for the tenant to be flexible to your needs, and hopefully more willing to cooperate with you during your sales process.

Don’t Assume Your Month-to-Month Renter Has No Legal Protection

Don’t assume that you can easily remove someone just because they have an expired lease agreement or if you never signed one to begin with.

Even a month-to-month tenant is entitled to just cause protection under California law if they have legally occupied the property for more than 12 months. These rights are something you will need to navigate around. If your tenant has just cause protection, you will likely be better served by being civil and respectful about your intentions.

Be Ready to Negotiate

The law in California makes it likely that the tenant will have a fairly significant amount of leverage when it comes to vacating the property.

A tenant with an active lease agreement can’t be removed at all without just cause, for example, even by the new owner. This can hurt or help your sales process and add confusion to a situation with a lot of moving parts.

Because of this, you should come to the tenant ready to negotiate. You will likely need to offer some form of concession like cash or a rent waiver.

Look at this as part of the deal when selling a house: the tenant, just like your buyer, has certain leverage and rights that must be respected. This doesn’t mean the interactions need to be hostile, but don’t go into the negotiation expecting to make demands that you can’t actually make.

Consider brushing up on some negotiation skills before opening the conversation:

Here are some concessions you could suggest to your tenant that may make them more willing to move:

  • Rent Waivers/Discounts: Offer to waive or discount a certain period of rental payments. This will hurt you in the short term but could make the difference between a sale and no sale.
  • Cash for Keys: You may be able to offer a simple cash payment to the tenant in exchange for moving out.
  • Relocation Assistance: Like a rental waiver, you can offer to help locate a new rental for the tenant or cover the costs of finding one and moving.
  • Make it Up to Them: Depending on the difference in rent, you could offer to cover the difference between what you were charging and their new rental for a certain period in order to smooth their transition.

Use the Law as a Last Resort

The law might help you but going directly to the legal route is one way to alienate the tenant and ensure they will never be willing to cooperate with you. On top of this, the law may not be as on your side as you expect it to be.

California has pretty strict tenant protection laws including the thorough just cause requirement. Instead, you may be better off going directly to the tenant and stating your intentions.

It’s best to inform tenants of your intent to sell and give them plenty of time to prepare for a move. Remember to be empathetic. You’re going through a major change by selling your property, but you’re also asking them to uproot their lives on your schedule.

You absolutely have the right to sell your property, but don’t forget the people involved in the equation. As the old saying goes: you’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

If you do have a nightmare tenant who is unwilling to leave or negotiate despite your best efforts, it may be time to pursue legal action or hire an attorney who specializes in landlord-tenant laws. Just ensure you’ve exhausted all non-legal options because there really is no turning back after you get the law involved.

Selling a Rental Has Never Been This Easy

Selling a rental in California can be stressful especially with uncooperative tenants. If you want to sell without the stress, hassle and headache of listing, Realtors and dealing with Tenants we can help! Receive a guaranteed all cash offer within 48 hours and close on your home within 7 days. You may be one click away from your next business venture.

How to Deal with a Bad Tenant

If your tenants are nothing short of aggravating, you might want to sell them with the house. While SoCal Home Buyers buys tenant occupied rental properties, other investors in your area may not.

Not only will you want to get rid of them quickly, but you’ll also want to get rid of them peacefully. Bad tenants can cause a whole host of additional problems, often avoided by finding a compromise if you want a smooth transition.

1. Take the Right Attitude

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar. The flies in this case are your bad tenants, and you’ll need to treat them with kid gloves.

You might feel tempted to go on a rampage and tell them you’ve had it, but don’t give in. You’ll need to walk a fine line, and the only thing you can kill them with is kindness during this process.

If you let loose, you’ll have to worry about them retaliating. As the saying goes, never back a wild animal into a corner. You don’t want them to damage your property or take their anger out on you. Find the right balance between polite and firm.

2. Inspect Your Property

Before you announce to your tenants that you’re looking to get them out of there, you need to check the property. Check your appliances and inventory the things on the property that belong to you. Check walls and floors for scuffs and dents. Make sure nothing is broken.

Take photos, in case you need them later. If your tenants get angry and damage anything, or leave your rental a mess, you’ll have photo evidence. Knowing that you inspected may be enough to prevent any acts of vengeance. Your tenants will probably want their deposits back. Some won’t care, and those are the tenants you need to watch out for.

3. Look For Signs of Lease Violations

Lease violations are the easiest way to evict someone. Think about stipulations in your lease about illegal drug use, or guests that stay too long. You want to find every violation that you can to prepare the strongest case.

If there’s unsavory activity going on that isn’t specified within your lease, you may have your hands tied in that department. If the activity is illegal, that becomes another can of worms. You cannot blackmail your tenants, but you can alert the authorities.

If you only have suspicions, your tenants will probably be more compliant if they’re trying to hide something. They’ll do their best to avoid having police serve them notices or assist in the eviction process.

4. Have The Big Discussion

Once you know what you can evict them for, it’s time to sit them down and have the talk. The key to making this is a successful discussion is the tactic you take, which is partially why monitoring your attitude during the process is so important.

You’ll want to be sympathetic, calm, and kind when speaking with your tenants but with a firmness that shows you’re not a pushover. Many bad tenants that can sense this will often exploit it to their advantage.

You can jump for joy and break out the champagne once things are over, but don’t channel your anger into the discussion.

You’ll need to outline the grounds for eviction, and try to come up with a compromise if possible. You may not have all the time in the world to get them out of there, but your tenants will probably be more compliant if they can collaborate with you on their exit strategy.

If you find that your best efforts to create a peaceful resolution to the situation are being prolonged by tenants that are taking advantage of you, you still aren’t out of options.

When selling to an investor for example, they can often assist in the eviction process or buying the house with them, to evict them at a later date to simply make the process easier for you.

It’s Not All Bad: The Benefits of a Satisfied Tenant

Keep in mind also that not all tenants are a negative for the sales process. If you have a tenant who pays rent on time and isn’t a nuisance, this may actually increase the value of your property for a real estate investor looking to build their own portfolio.

Investors don’t want to waste time and effort finding a new Tenant, and the prospect of earning Rental income immediately may make them willing to pay a little extra.

Doug & Andrea Van Soest

A Satisfied Tenant is Likely to:

  • Continue Paying Rent on Time: Reliable income is a powerful motivator for real estate investors.
  • Not Be a Nuisance: Disruptive tenants will hurt your property value.
  • Respect The Property: Repairs and damages caused by tenants can also depreciate the value of the home.
  • Stay Out of the Way of Your Sales Process: A happy tenant will be far more likely to respect your decision to sell the property and make plans around it.

Leverage the opportunity cost of finding a new tenant to negotiate a higher sale price for your occupied property. Investors don’t want to waste time and effort finding a new tenant, and the prospect of earning rental income immediately may make them willing to pay a little extra.

When it comes to showing the property with a tenant, giving them plenty of notice will make it easier for them to present a clean and well-decorated home. More importantly, it will be easier for them to plan on being outside the house on that day and time.

In the worst case, if they can’t leave while the home is being shown, the last thing you want is for them to be disgruntled on top of it. A rude tenant can completely disrupt the process of showing the property and, legally, there is nothing you can really do about it without just cause.

Your No Hassle Solution for Selling Rentals

Selling a rental in California can be stressful especially with uncooperative tenants. If you want to sell without the stress, hassle and headache of listing, Realtors and dealing with Tenants we can help! Receive a guaranteed all cash offer within 48 hours and close on your home within 7 days. You may be one click away from your next business venture.

Steps to Follow When Selling a Rental Property with a Tenant in California

If you were worried you may not be able to sell your property just because it’s occupied by tenants, hopefully you can see it’s possible. As a recap, here are the steps you should take when selling your home with tenants still in it:

1. Give Proper Legal Notice

When you’ve decided to sell your property for any reason, start by notifying your tenant orally, followed by writing within 120 days. During these 120 days, you have the right to show the property after 24 hours oral notice, or 6 days of mailed notice.

2. Inform the Tenant if They Have to Leave

If you know the prospective buyer will be making it their primary residence, you should inform the tenant immediately so they can make plans to vacate. Other forms of just cause may be curable, and the option to fix those must also be offered before the tenant can be removed.

Legally, you or the new landlord will need to provide 60 days’ notice for a just cause quit notice or 30 days if the tenant has lived there less than one year.

3. Respect Your Tenant and Don’t Assume Their Presence is a Negative

A happy tenant is a benefit to your property, especially if you’re a landlord selling a house to investors looking to make rental income. Even if they will be required to move, treating them with respect and kindness will benefit you as well: a happy tenant is a cooperative tenant and one that has no interest in hindering the sale of your property.

4. From Listing to Closing, Keep Your Tenant Involved

Remember that California has quite friendly tenant laws that you will need to navigate.

The most important part of any amicable relationship is trust. This is also true for your relationship with your tenant. Establishing trust early on in your relationship with your tenant will make it far easier to ask them for favors like moving out on your time frame.

Communicate your intent to sell your house fast early on in the process. Keep them informed of the time frame and when you plan to show the house. Follow the legal guidelines but don’t use them as your moral compass.

You may be within your rights to list the house for sale without telling them, but someone knocking on the door and asking for a showing is not the way you want your tenant finding out about your intentions. It will quickly break any trust you’ve managed to establish and could lead to them refusing to cooperate.

It’s Still Possible to Sell, Just Know Your Options and Rights

Selling a rental property with tenants in California can be a bit more complicated than selling a vacant rental property, but it is definitely possible.

By being upfront with potential buyers about the current tenants, providing a detailed lease agreement, and working with a real estate agent who is experienced in handling tenant-occupied properties, you can successfully sell your rental property while ensuring the rights of your tenants are protected.

As a landlord, it is important to understand and follow all of the state and federal laws regarding the rights of tenants and the process of selling a rental property with tenants. With the right approach, you can sell your rental property with tenants and move on to your next investment opportunity.


Also See: Should You Sell Your Rental Property at a Loss?


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Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, a landlord can sell a house with a tenant in California. The rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant are governed by state law and the terms of the lease agreement.

The new owner of the property must honor the existing lease agreement and cannot evict the tenant without just cause. Additionally, the new owner must provide the tenant with notice of the sale and the new owner’s contact information.

If the new owner plans to make significant changes to the property or plans to move in themselves, they may be able to terminate the lease with proper notice and in accordance with California Tenancy laws.

In California, tenants have the right to live in a property that is safe and in good condition, as well as the right to proper notice before a landlord increases rent or ends a tenancy.

During the sale of a rental property, tenants also have the right to be informed of the sale and to continue living in the property for the duration of their lease, unless the new owner intends to occupy the property themselves.

Additionally, tenants have the right to seek relocation assistance if they are displaced as a result of the sale. However, if the tenant’s lease agreement is up, the new owner can ask them to vacate the property.

Tenants have a right to privacy and quiet enjoyment of their rental property. Landlords should give tenants advance notice before showing the property and should limit the number of showings and open houses to minimize disruption to the tenants’ daily lives. Landlords should also provide tenants with the option to be present during showings or to vacate the property temporarily.

As of 2023, if the tenant has a written lease, the landlord or property owner must give the tenant at least 60 days written notice before the end of the lease term if the landlord intends to sell the property and the tenant will not be offered a new lease.

If the tenant has a month-to-month rental agreement, the landlord must give the tenant at least 60 days written notice before the end of the rental period.

It’s important to note that the law can change, so it’s always best to check with a lawyer or your local housing authority for the most up-to-date information and to ensure you are in compliance with state and local laws.

Additionally, landlords must follow any state’s and local’s COVID-19 eviction moratoriums, which may change the notice requirement or prohibit eviction in certain situations.

In California, unless the new owner intends to move in themselves, tenants have the right to remain in the rental unit until the end of the lease term. In this case, the new owner must give a 60-day notice to vacate. The new owner must provide a 90-day notice to vacate if the tenant does not have a lease.

A lawyer or the local housing authority should always be consulted for specific information and to ensure compliance with local laws and regulations because there are nuances and exceptions to the law.

As a landlord, you are legally allowed to show your California property to prospective tenants while it is occupied, but you must give the current tenants reasonable notice before doing so.

The state of California requires that landlords give at least 24 hours notice before entering the property for the purpose of showing it to prospective tenants.

It is also a good practice to schedule showings during reasonable hours, such as during the day, so as not to disrupt the current tenants too much. It is important to remember that if you are planning to show your property, it is best to have the current tenants’ consent.

As of 2023, there may be eviction moratoriums in California due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which may change the notice requirement or prohibit eviction in certain situations. It’s important to consult with a lawyer or your local housing authority to understand the most recent regulations.

It is also important to note that the moratorium has been extended several times and the most recent extension in Los Angeles extends to June 30,2023, so it is best to check the current status of the moratorium. Additionally, it is always recommended to consult with a lawyer before taking any legal action.

The California Covid-19 Eviction Moratorium, which was put in place to protect renters affected by the pandemic, does prevent landlords from evicting tenants for nonpayment of rent if the tenant meets certain qualifications. However, the moratorium does not apply to tenants who have defaulted on other terms of the lease, such as engaging in criminal activity on the property.

It’s important to keep tenants informed about the sale process and to maintain open lines of communication throughout. Landlords should give tenants advance notice before showing the property and should provide regular updates about the progress of the sale.

Additionally, landlords should provide tenants with contact information for the real estate agent or potential buyer to address any questions or concerns they may have. Landlords should also make themselves available to answer any questions or address any concerns that tenants may have.

For tenants who are relocated as a result of the property sale, there might be financial incentives or relocation aid available. These incentives may differ based on regional laws and policies, so it’s crucial to speak with a lawyer or your local housing authority to learn about your options.

It’s important to strike a balance between making the property attractive to potential buyers and maintaining a good relationship with tenants. Landlords should make sure that the property is clean and well-maintained and that any necessary repairs are made.

Additionally, landlords should be mindful of the tenants’ rights to privacy and quiet enjoyment of the property during the sale process, and limit the number of showings and open houses to minimize disruption to the tenants’ daily lives.