Selling a real estate property you rent to tenants is not as simple as selling your primary residence. There are various laws and considerations to take into account. What are the rights of the tenant? What does the new owner need to know?
If you’re a real estate investor who wants to sell a property that generates rental income, this guide will outline the laws that regulate the selling of rental homes in Wisconsin and what steps you need to take to ensure a smooth sale.
Selling a Rental Property
There are many reasons property owners might want to sell a rental property. Perhaps you need the cash for a new real estate investing opportunity, or maybe you simply can’t deal with the hassle of property management anymore as you have new responsibilities to worry about.
Regardless of why you want to sell the property, you can, even if the renter’s lease has not yet expired. However, you can’t just kick the tenant out.
According to Wisconsin law, any potential buyer will step into your role as a landlord when you sell an occupied property, and the tenant’s lease agreement will remain in effect as before. They will continue paying rent, albeit to the new owner, until the current lease is over.
Dos and Don’ts When Selling a Rental Property
Before getting into the legal intricacies of selling a Wisconsin Rental property, here are some quick pointers to know about.
- Honor the lease agreement and comply with all laws protecting tenant rights.
- Hire a lawyer to advise you on your rights and the tenant’s rights.
- Try coming to an agreement with the tenant to terminate the lease early if you don’t want to sell an occupied property.
- Disclose the tenancy agreement to potential buyers.
- Set up a meeting so the prospective buyer can meet the tenant, and they can get to know each other (if you’re selling an occupied property).
- Use a loyal, orderly tenant who pays on time as a selling point.
- Disclose issues you’ve experienced with the tenant to potential buyers.
- Consider using a like-kind exchange to save on your tax bill.
- Make sure you have all the paperwork needed when selling by yourself if you’re not using a real estate agent.
- Calculate the estimated closing costs for sellers before deciding to sell your rental property.
- Attempt to force the tenant to terminate the agreement against their wishes.
- Sell the rental property before owning it for a whole year, unless you have no other choice (as you will pay more in taxes if you do).
- Ignore cash buyers. Selling a rental property to cash home buyers in Wisconsin is often easier and quicker than selling to a traditional home purchaser.
Legalities When Selling a Rental Property
There are two main legal areas to consider when selling a rental property in Wisconsin: tenant rights and property taxes.
When it comes to tenant rights, the law is clear. You can’t terminate the lease agreement arbitrarily unless you come to a deal with the tenant to terminate it early or the tenant has breached the lease terms.
Otherwise, you have a few options, including transferring the lease agreement to the new owner and giving the tenant an advance termination notice (depending on the specifics of the lease agreement).
The next thing to think about is how to save on property taxes. Since it’s an investment property, it will be subject to a capital gains tax. You likely have owned the property for more than a year, so the long-term capital gains tax will apply.
If you only owned it for less than a year, the short-term capital gains tax, which is a lot higher, will apply. The short-term capital gains tax depends on your tax bracket but is generally the same as your income tax.
The IRS does provide an exemption to the capital gains tax, which applies if you owned and used the property as your primary residence for at least two out of the past five years. For example, if you lived there for two years and then rented it out for three years, you may qualify for this exemption.
There are other ways to get around the capital gains tax, such as by investing in a like-kind property – a new property that is similar to the one you just sold.
For example, suppose you’re selling a single-family home. In that case, you don’t necessarily have to buy another single-family home. Still, the replacement property must be for a similar purpose (in the case of a rental property sale, the new property must also be for investment purposes).
Since like-kind exchanges can get complex, it’s important to enlist the help of a tax professional to save on your tax bill.
Who Has Rights When Selling a Rental Property
The law protects the right of the tenant. You can’t just hand them an eviction notice; you must give them ample notice beforehand. According to Wisconsin law, that’s 28 days. However, it must also be at the end of the lease agreement.
So, in the case of a month-to-month rental agreement, you can give this notice 28 days before the end of any month. However, for a yearly lease agreement, you must wait until 28 days before the end of the year-long lease agreement before giving this notice, even if the tenant pays rent monthly.
If the lease agreement is shorter than month-to-month, the notice can be the length of the rental agreement. So, if the rental agreement is week-to-week, you can give a week’s notice.
The landlord has rights, too. If the tenant fails to pay rent, engages in criminal activity, or causes a police report detailing a nuisance the tenant has caused in the property, the landlord can terminate the agreement with a proper notice, which is usually five, 14, or 30 days, depending on the situation and as Wisconsin law specifies.
Before selling a property, you’ll likely have to show it to prospective buyers. How can you do that if there’s a tenant living inside it?
Wisconsin law gives the landlord the right to enter the property to inspect it, make repairs, or show it to prospective buyers, as long as they have given advance notice and the entry is at reasonable times. You can’t show it to buyers in the middle of the night, for example.
If you decide to sell the property with the tenant still in it, the tenant retains all their rights. You must transfer the security deposit to the new buyer so they can return it to the tenant once the agreement is over.
How To Sell a Rental Property With Tenants
You have a few options when selling a rental property with tenants. We have already discussed two of them: You can sell it with the tenant agreement still in place, or you can give ample notice and wait until the tenant leaves before selling.
Both options have pros and cons. Some investors are more interested in purchasing a property with a tenant, as it provides guaranteed monthly income without looking for a new tenant, which can be quite a hassle.
However, if the tenant is not loyal and doesn’t pay on time, it could be a significant disadvantage. Some investors might also want to look for their own tenants and set their own rates.
Some buyers aren’t interested in purchasing a rental property. Perhaps they want to use it for other investment purposes. Maybe they want to renovate it and flip it for a profit, or maybe they want to live in it themselves.
In either case, waiting until the home is empty can allow you to open your home up to a broader target audience, not just investors looking to purchase a rental property.
There are other options as well. One is selling directly to the tenant. If the tenant has been living there for a while, they may be attached to the home, and they may not want to relocate or let the agreement end. If you tell them that you are selling, they may be interested in purchasing the home themselves. That will save you a lot of hassle.
Another option, if you want to sell a house fast in Milwaukee, is agreeing with the tenant to end the lease before the original agreement specifies. For example, you might offer them financial help so they can relocate somewhere else, or forgive a few months’ of their rent.
In addition to covering moving expenses, you might cover other costs, such as the new security deposit they will have to pay to secure a new home.
As long as the tenant agrees, there is no legal problem with terminating a lease early, but you can’t force things.
Selling a rental property can be a hassle, but we can make things easier for you. We buy houses Oskosh homeowners need to sell quickly, whether it’s a rental property, or home with damage, or a building you inherited and want to get off your hands.
Contact us for a quick quote. Send us pictures or schedule a walkthrough, and we will provide you with a fair cash offer. Once you accept, we will close on your schedule. We can close right away or wait until the rental agreement is over.