Who is the Landlord When Property With a Contract for Deed is Leased by the Potential Buyer?

Full Question:

I am on the Board of Directors of a condominium in Va. One of our residents entered into a contract for deed with another party (buyer). The buyer now wants to rent the property (with the full knowledge of the seller). Who do we recognize as the landlord? All leases are subject to board approval.
06/23/2010   |   Category: Contract for Deed   |   State: Virginia   |   #22455

Answer:

A contract for deed, or land contract, is often used as an alternative means of financing the purchase price of property. The buyer does not receive an actual deed until payments are made under the terms of the contract for deed agreement. Until the buyer receives a deed, ownership isn't transferred and the property is subject to being foreclosed on if the mortgagee/owner defaults on the mortgage. The responsibility for payment for the property is a separate issue from the ownership of the property.

The buyer in a contract for deed has equitable, rather than legal title until the deed is transferred. Therefore, the buyer might be considered a landlord. Typically, the party named in the lease as landlord will govern. However, there is ambiguity in the law, and the buyer might also be considered a sublessor of the property. You may wish to resolve this ambiguity by defining the term landlord in the governing documents of the HOA so as to cover the situation of a property under a contract for deed that is leased by the buyer.

Please see the following definitions from a VA statute:

"Landlord" means the owner or lessor of the dwelling unit or the building of which such dwelling unit is a part. "Landlord" also includes a managing agent of the premises who fails to disclose the name of such owner, lessor, or sublessor. Such managing agent shall be subject to the provisions of § 16.1-88.03.

"Managing agent" means a person authorized by the
landlord to act on behalf of the landlord under an agreement.