Finding out that you are renting a house that is facing foreclosure can be deeply worrisome. And the worst part is that there are so many questions that you may never receive a response to from your landlord and have to begin researching on your own.
How far along is the process? Has the house already been sold at sheriff sale? Who is the current owner of the property? Which bank is the foreclosing lender? Can you get more time to move out? Or has the landlord been working on a solution?
But the most common question that tenants seem to have when they discover their apartment or rental house is in foreclosure is if they still have to pay rent or not. Of course, this is a serious question, but it is more important to know who should be paid, rather than if a payment should me made at all.
The short answer is that you are still required to pay rent since you are still living in the property and using the space you are leasing from the current owners. You have a contractual obligation to pay rent in exchange for the living space, and foreclosure does not change that until ownership is transferred through a public property auction.
If you are concerned about the foreclosure, then you have two options, both of which you should work on. First you can either move out as soon as possible to avoid potentially being evicted later on, or, second, you should talk to the landlord about what he is doing about the situation and any possible solutions to foreclosure.
Some landlords are able to stop the foreclosure process before the house is auctioned off, and then you would just be behind on rent if you stopped paying now and they saved the home. You would probably end up losing your deposit in that case, since nonpayment is one reason you had to put down the deposit in the first place, and you may open yourself up to lawsuits for back rent payments.
You can also move out of the house claiming constructive eviction, which means the conditions made it so unlivable that there was no other choice than to break the lease and leave. If the owner does not give you your deposit back, you can try to sue for it later on. You would just have to convince the small claims court that a pending foreclosure was a reason to move out prematurely.
A final aspect of the process to be aware of is after the sheriff sale, the bank may become the owner of the property and rent payments will need to be made either to a trustee or the lender’s attorneys. Most often, banks will attempt to evict anyone still living in the house after the auction, but if there is a chance to continue renting, it may be best to consider the circumstances.
But you do not just want to stop paying rent unless you have the correct information about the foreclosure proceedings, what the owner is doing about it, or a game plan for moving out and claiming constructive eviction. Otherwise, refusing to pay rent because of a pending foreclosure may have negative unintended consequences, depending on how the rest of the legal process plays out.