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Before using any of this online tenant information, please read our OVERVIEW:
- Understanding Landlord-Tenant Law
- Tools for Tenants
- Best Practices and Tips for Renters
Solid Ground Tenant Counselors are not attorneys, and this information should not be considered legal advice. To read specific laws in the Washington State Residential Landlord-Tenant Act, click on the RCW (Revised Code of WA) links throughout this site.
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Foreclosure Protections for Renters
- I am a Tenant Living in a Foreclosed Property: What are my Rights?
- Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act S. 896, Pub. L. No. 111-22, §§ 701-704
- Washington Land Records and Deeds Directory
In Washington State, there is a state law that offers protection to renters living in properties facing foreclosure.
This information is meant to be general information about foreclosure protections for renters and should not be considered legal advice. If your rental property is going into foreclosure, or if you have received a notice to vacate after a foreclosure, it is essential that you speak with an attorney about your specific situation. See our Legal Assistance Guide webpage for more information on how to access legal services in your area.
Tenants who find themselves in a property facing foreclosure should be aware of the following:
- Tenants must continue to pay rent and comply with all terms of their rental agreement or lease, even if the rental property is going into foreclosure.
- Tenants do not make rent payments to the original landlord after the property is lost in a foreclosure sale. They are no longer your landlord because they no longer own the property. Payment must go to the new owner. (See information below to help determine whether or not the landlord still owns the property.)
- Tenants are not required to immediately vacate after the foreclosure sale.
- Tenants must always receive proper written notice to vacate before a new owner or bank can begin an eviction action.
- Unless the new owner wants to move into your unit, a valid unexpired term lease must be honored under federal law.
- If someone contacts you claiming to be the new owner, ask to see the “Trustees Deed” for the property to confirm ownership. You can also attempt to confirm authenticity with your county’s auditor or records office.
- If your landlord is responsible for utility bills and the utility company cuts your services, this can be an indicator that your landlord is in foreclosure. If the landlord lacks the money to pay for utilities, they may also lack funds to pay the mortgage. Research the publicly recorded documents in the county where the property is located to see if a “Notice of Trustee Sale” has been filed to indicate an upcoming foreclosure.
Before the Foreclosure
- RCW 61.24.040: Foreclosure and sale – Notice of sale.
If your landlord stops paying their mortgage, the bank will often begin the foreclosure process to take back the building. The bank will use a “Trustee” to facilitate the foreclosure process, who will issue notices to the landlord or tenants. The Trustee will establish a date for a foreclosure sale – sometimes called a foreclosure auction – where the landlord will lose ownership of the home if they can’t catch up on the mortgage. The Trustee merely facilitates the process; they do not make decisions about who ends up owning the property.
State law requires that the foreclosing party, such as the bank or trustee, must provide renters with at least 120 days’ written notice before the date of the foreclosure sale. This notice does not terminate your tenancy; it only informs you of a pending foreclosure sale. The document tenants receive is called the “Notice of Trustee Sale.” It will have the date of the foreclosure sale listed. This notice is filed with the County Auditor’s office. If you have seen or received notice of a pending foreclosure sale, it is very important that you pay attention to it, even if your landlord tells you not to worry about it or reassures you that they are “taking care of it.”
Sometimes landlords will remove the Notice of Trustee Sale so tenants are not aware of the foreclosure. It is a good idea to find out more information about the status of the property if you can. You can try researching or communicating with the Trustee that sent the notice. Often the Trustee won’t give you much information, but it is a good idea to contact them as you get closer to the foreclosure sale to make sure the date has not changed.
For example, your landlord may get caught up on the mortgage payment after you’ve received the notice, which could cancel the foreclosure sale, and they would continue to be your landlord. If a Notice of Trustee Sale has been filed, you can also try doing a public records search in your county to see if they have more information. King County Recorder’s Office has an online Records Search. For other counties, visit Washington Land Records and Deeds Directory.
Remember, you must continue to pay rent up to and, in most cases, past the date of foreclosure sale. Failure to do so could put you at risk of having an eviction lawsuit filed against you.
If you know that a foreclosure sale date is coming, it may be a good idea to think ahead about documenting your rights to both the old and new property owners. You can remind the landlords being foreclosed on of their obligation to send any deposit money and last month’s rent you paid to be returned to you or transferred to the new owners. RCW 59.18.270 states that the old landlords must refund the deposit back to the tenants, or transfer the deposit to the new property owners. If the old owners fail to do either, they can be liable to the tenants for twice the amount of the deposit, along with court or arbitration costs and attorneys’ fees.BACK TO TOP
After the Foreclosure
1) If a New Property Owner Wants You to Continue as a Renter
2) If a New Property Owner Wants You to Vacate
3) Cash-for-Keys Offers
4) If There is No Contact from a New Property Owner
- Legal Assistance Guide: Created by Solid Ground Tenant Services
- I am a Tenant Living in a Foreclosed Property: What are my Rights?: Washington LawHelp
- Washington State Law SB 5810
- Sample Letter: For Tenants to Send to Public Utility Companies to Transfer Bills to Tenants’ Names
- King County Recorder’s Office online Records Search
- Washington Land Records and Deed Directory
- RCW 59.18.270: Deposit Returned or Transferred to New Owner
- RCW 61.24.146: Washington State law regarding notice period for renters