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Home Sweet Home

I recently attended a foreclosure program in the Bronx which discussed the effect of foreclosure on tenants.  One of the spearkers stated that  a tenant who has been evicted because his or her building was foreclosed on may have difficulty finding a new apartment because the eviction will show up on the tenant’s credit report. 

That doesn’t sound right, I thought.  I raised my hand to ask for clarification when a woman behind me asked my question before I could. 

“Can you clarify what you just said about a tenant having difficulty finding a new apartment because the landlord was foreclosed on?  If the tenant was evicted through no fault of his own, why would this stop the tenant from finding another rental?”

Unfortunately, there was nothing to clarify.  The fact of the matter is, yes, this type of eviction will show up on your credit report.   And while there are different types of evictions, it will not always be clear that the eviction was the result of a foreclosure. 

Throughout this economic crisis, we have all become acutely aware of the unfairness of life.  Innocent people are getting hurt.  So what do you do?  How do you avoid this same fate?  Make it your business to understand how things work (please note that much of the following information is specific to New York).

1. Have enough money in an emergency fund to make a move

  • Now, I’m a firm believer in a 6 to 9 month emergency fund (yes, it has increased from 3 to 6 months due to the economic downturn).  This number can be daunting to many people.  But if you can’t save up that much, try to make sure you have enough for first month’s rent, last month’s rent and moving expenses.  The foreclosure process in New York State normally takes about 6 months or more from the filing of the case to auction.  But guess what?  Tenants may not be notified of the impending foreclosure until very late in the game.  Have money saved so that you can decide to move rather than be evicted.

2. Do some research

  • Foreclosure information is PUBLIC information.  If you have any concern that your landlord may be in trouble,  look for his or her information online.  The Office of Court Administration has a website of active cases (www.courts.state.ny.us/admin/oca).  I realize that many people won’t take this extra step.  If you don’t know whether your landlord is in trouble, you aren’t going to spend a lot of your free time visiting this website.  But, if you do suspect something, it’s important to know that this information is readily available. 

3. Make sure your lease is current

  • It’s not unusual to see a tenant who hasn’t signed a lease in years.  Tenants and landlords become comfortable with each other.  The landlord isn’t raising the rent so the tenant is happy to continue living in the apartment without signing a new piece of paper each year.  This can be dangerous.  A lease is not a bullet proof shield against eviction.  However, a tenant with a lease generally has more rights and claims than a month to month tenant.  In some cases, a tenant with a lease may not have to move, even if the new owner tries to evict him.

4.  Know your rights!

  • Ok, this piece of advice applies to all situations.  If someone brings you some bad news, determine if there’s a way for you to fight back.  Don’t assume that you’re completely out of luck.  If you are completely blindsided by the information that your building is being foreclosed on, speak with a legal aid attorney (or any other attorney that offers free advice).  Tenants aren’t completely helpless in these situations.  For example, the tenant can often ask the court for time to move.  This may seem small but it may give a tenant time to save money and find a place on her own terms.  Find out what your options are and speak to an expert before you make a move.
Categories: Housing
  1. June 2, 2009 at 11:32 am

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  2. June 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm

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  3. June 15, 2009 at 10:17 am

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  4. June 16, 2009 at 12:35 pm

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