Buying a tenant occuped duplex in Rockridge

Asked by DR, Oakland, CA Sun Jul 20, 2008

I am considering buying a duplex in Rockridge which is currently tenant occupied. One side of the duplex is on a month-to-month lease where as the other side has a year long lease. I would like to move into the side that is on the month-to-month lease after buying the duplex. The complication is that the current owner wants to sell the place as is and would like me to deal with the tenants.

Could somebody tell me what my options are? Specifically:
(a) Can the current owner terminate the month-to-month lease or does he have to file an owner eviction?
(b) If I buy the duplex with both tenants in place, can I terminate the month-to-month lease as easily as the current owner? Or do I have to file an owner eviction notice?
(c) Is it significantly easier for the current owner to get the month-to-month tenant to leave than for me to get him/her to leave after I buy the duplex or vice-versa?

Thanks in advance for your help.

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Susan Wesely, , Saint Paul, MN
Sun Jul 20, 2008
This is not legal advice (I'm not a lawyer) but when you buy the property, you take over the leases. The owner (current or future) can terminate the month-to-month lease with notice per relevant California law. Until you are the owner, you can't do anything except request that the seller give notice. You could include that request as a condition in the offer to purchase. Your Realtor or attorney can help with wording.
2 votes
Mark C. Ross, , Oakland, CA
Wed Aug 1, 2012
1) Never take advice on landlord/tenant issues from any one out of the area because local ordinances prevail. 2) Legally "incorrect" evictions place the evictor in jeopardy of TRIPLE damages under state law. 3) Before "Just Cause" eviction in Oakland (measure EE) was enacted, we used to write purchase offers for tenant occupied properties with the clause "Property to be delivered vacant at close of escrow" and allow for a minimum of 60 days for escrow. It was only fair to first remove all buyer contingencies (usually taking the better part of 30 days) before a landlord/seller should be compelled to notice the tenants of the termination of their tenancies (requiring 30 days). In Oakland, now, 60 days is the minimum notice period. Owner move in (OMI) is legal under Measure EE, but a buyer in escrow is NOT an owner... and a landlord/seller is NOT moving in. It is also my opinion, as an agent and landlord, that month-to-month tenants have no less right to maintain their possession of the premises than do lease-holders. Month-to-month tenants just have an easier time terminating their tenancy. Because of Oakland's restrictive laws favoring tenants over landlords there is a flourishing business within the legal community handling these affairs. However, there is not very much case law on the subject... so, should a case go to trial, the outcome is pretty much up for grabs. There are similar laws in San Francisco, where a judge a few years ago disallowed an owner move in because he said "It was just a tactic." The good news is: rents are good... and it's easy to find tenants willing to pay market rates... just check Craigslist.
1 vote
Rose Nied SH…, , Oakland, CA
Sat Feb 20, 2010
Although it is great that realtors are able to give you what they consider to be sound advise and very well may is in your best interest if ou are seriously interested in purchasing this property to contact a local Oakland real estate attorney and discuss your rights/the tenants rights, etc with them. You might be able to get some free consultation...but if not, it will be the best money you ever spent. You can also consult the Oakland Rental Board to get more information...but we as realtors should always refer these questions back to a real estate attorney as there could be variations,etc that we are not aware of and I know I would hate to give you the wrong advice and you make a significant mistake...Please do call a real estate attorney to get the best advice. If you need a referral to a local attorney, please contact me and I will be more than happy to refer you to a couple that my clients have used in the past. Good luck. Rose Nied, Alain Pinel Realtors, 510 530 7011
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1 vote
Jeff Woo, Other Pro, San Francisco, CA
Mon Apr 13, 2009
You've gotten good advice, but there are a couple of things worth adding.

a. Its true that the seller can't do an owner move-in eviction because he does not intend on living in the premises as his principal place of residence for 36 months. The only way a seller can get a unit vacant in this circumstance is to do an Ellis Act eviction, but that would require him to evict tenants out of both units and the property could not be used as a residential rental property for 5 years. In addition, because of the lease, he could not even do the Ellis Act until that lease expired.

b. You have to do an OMI, which requires you to live their for 3 years as your principal place of residence. There is an upside however. The other tenant's tenancy falls out of eviction control when you move in becuase the property is less than 4 units. After a year, the other tenant's tenancy falls out of rent control, and thus can be raised to whatever you like upon 60 days notice.

c. Clearly visa-versa because you have the leverage of legally doing an OMI eviction..

Jeff Woo, Esq.
Follow Me on Twitter @jefferywoo
1 vote
Liz Stevens, , Berkeley, CA
Mon Jul 21, 2008
You have the option of doing an Owner Occupied Eviction on the month to month tenant, but not the year long tenant - that year long lease runs with the property and cannot be terminated by you, except with "cause". The seller cannot actually evict either tenant to sell to an owner occupant. Please do get a consultation from a rent control expert that actually does that as a business: the best one I know for both Oakland and Berkeley is Michael St. John at 510-845-8928. Oakland rent control ordinance is nearly a mirror image of Berkeley's, except that it has more restrictions on owners offering to pay off tenants to vacate prior to sale. Oakland owners cannot, Berkeley owners can. You can live with a rent controlled duplex and be happy, contrary to common belief. I have one and it works, once you know how to work with it. All the best, Liz
1 vote
Lisa Cartola…, Agent, Oakland, CA
Mon Jul 21, 2008

Hello. You may want to contact a lawyer who specializes in these types of situations, but there are rent control laws in Oakland that must be adhered to. When purchasing a tenant occupied property, the seller cannot evict tenants to sell the property. You the buyer have a legal right to occupy the property, but are also responsible for eviction of the tenants. Have you read over Measure EE? This is the rent control ordinance in Oakland and I would suggest that is would be a good idea to look over what are your rights as the purchaser of the tenant occupied property as well as what the tenants rights are. If you would like I can email you a copy of Measure EE.

Here is a link to the Oakland Rent Board that has information regarding processes and procedures. They also have a phone number you can call to ask specific questions regarding landlord/tenant rights. The URL is

I hope this information helps!

Let me know if you have any other questions and good luck!

Lisa Cartolano
Alain Pinel Realtors
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1 vote
Dallas Texas, Agent, Dallas, TN
Sun Jul 20, 2008
GREAT QUESTION: I own investment properties have purchased under the same circumstance

General rule HOWEVER REFER to the lease contract AND you need request from the current owner, review prior to submitting any offer. Therefore you are confirmed off any statement made to you. IF ALL IS TRUE if the tenant is month to month YOU MUST follow terms of lease agreement... most agreements (refer ~lease contract) you can provide notice per of terms of owner/ tenants termination.

If you have any questions ask your real estate agent / attorney to review lease agreements where you are within laws of your state.
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1 vote
Tomi Thomas, Agent, Oakland, CA
Sat Jul 28, 2012
It concerns me that out of state agents are offering advice on local real estate issues. Both Oakland and Berkeley have eviction ordinances that are much stricter than other areas, and it is critical that a buyer thoroughly investigate these ordinances prior to an offer, or during an inspection period, to make sure that they can take title on a financial and use model that makes sense for them individually. It is a very good idea to consult with a real estate attorney who works in the local market and is well versed in local laws.

Although it is fine to try to give yourself a general education on what the rules say prior to identifying the property, you really must look at the property with an eye to the specific scenario. Is it possible to evict at all? Is the tenant a member of a protected class of tenant. If eviction for owner occupancy is allowed, how long is the required notice for that specific tenant. Does that time frame allow me to get an owner occupant loan, or will I be required to get an investment property loan. Is the tenant willing to move? If not, are there conditions on the property that will allow them to tie me up legally due to issued of condition, or will you be assuming liabilities related to condition that might cause you to have to pay the tenant a higher than normal amount to move.

Research on the details is critical, and in all honesty, Trulia is not the best resource for getting these details. It's a good place to identify some better questions to ask, perhaps. My advice is get a good agent to represent you...Based on the kinds of questions that you are asking, I recommend you do not use a dual agent on this purchase. Dual agency (where the listing agent writes the offer for a perspective buyer) is legal, if disclosed to both parties and agreed by all. BUT - the agent cannot advocate for either the buyer or the seller. You need an advocate who can help make sure you fully research and ask the right questions.
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