I currently have a year-long lease that ends in July. In April, I reached out to the landlord via email to see if they might be interested in selling the place to me. They wanted a price that I thought too high. I asked via email if they were planning to rent again and at what price. They said, yes, they would rent to me again. I agreed, again through email, to this and stopped my house hunt.
A few weeks pass and, in late May, I received an email stating that they had “gotten a broker” and were going to sell and that I could go month-to-month after the lease was up. At this point I thought I had to find a new place. I pointed out the lease stipulated 90 days notice. They agreed to this in email. A few days later I get an email from them asking me to be out by beginning of August, as they would like to “stage and paint” the place for showing. I again said I would try, but would need the full 90 days in case I couldn’t not find a rental — I am fully aware how difficult the Covid rental market is.
Another week goes by, and I receive a forwarded email from my landlord. The email, one of a string of emails, is from their real estate agent outlining how they want to start showing the place right away, with open houses and everything, to take advantage of the market — going so far as to say they would remove my belongings and put them in a storage unit. (I suppose the landlord forwarded me this to give me a heads up.) Buried in the email string, however, are emails between my landlord, his real estate agent, and the real estate agency’s lawyer. One of these emails has the lawyer explicitly stating that a written email agreement to renew the lease is indeed legally binding and it would be “very difficult” to remove the tenant. The response from the landlord: “Bummer.”
Three days later is when I received the email from my landlord informing me of his intent to sell. And I, terrified of the possibility of not finding a new rental, spent the next few days frantically touring rentals and securing a new place. By the time I learned I still had legal right to my current rental, I had already entered into a written agreement with a new landlord — and I certainly wasn’t going to go back on my word.
I have been a model tenant for over six years, always paying rent on time and completing repairs myself when I could. My questions: Do I have a case to sue for any and all costs related to moving? Is the real estate agency in violation for encouraging a landlord to go forward with a sale even after it was confirmed that the landlord would be in violation of the lease? Or did I undermine my case by agreeing to the 90 days, not knowing I had full right to the year’s lease that had been agreed to?