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Buying a property? Have you thought about vacant possession?

Vacant possession

What is vacant possession?

If you are a landlord, vacant possession is likely to be a term you are familiar with. However, for those who aren’t, or are new to the property market, you may be unsure of what the term means.

Applying to both residential and commercial properties, put simply, vacant possession means that the property you are buying or selling will be empty on the day of completion (the day the legally binding contracts are exchanged). For sellers and tenants this means that they must have removed all of their belongings (other than items being left behind as agreed as part of the sale), and moved out.

While most properties are bought and sold as vacant possession, there are instances, particularly when buying/selling rented properties, when a property may be sold with tenants who will continue to live within the property.

In these cases, the new owner, who will then become the landlord, will need the tenancy agreement the current tenants have signed, and it must be detailed in the contract of sale.

Giving vacant possession

To be sure you are complying with the obligations vacant possession brings, be sure to:

  • make sure no-one is left living in the property from the date the property is sold
  • ensure all furniture and property (unless agreed as part of the sale) is removed
  • hand over the keys of the empty property at the agreed time.

Potential issues

In most property purchases vacant possession is the norm and people ensure they, and their belongings, are removed on time. However, in properties where the seller is not the occupier and the property is not being sold as a tenanted property, there is the potential for the tenant to refuse to move out. Such cases can be complex, and it is important that the legalities around giving the tenant notice to leave and agreeing a date when they will vacate are agreed in advance of completion. Your conveyancing solicitor should be able to advise further.

There can be other scenarios where vacant possession cannot be offered, such as clauses within pre-existing contracts. Whatever the circumstances, it is vital to have your legal team fully investigate every aspect of the sale to ensure you are protected.

Protecting against vacant possession

If you are concerned that a property you are purchasing will not be vacant, there are measures your conveyancer can put into place to help protect your investment. For example, it may be prudent to hold back on completion until the property has been inspected, your solicitor can add a clause to such effect in the legal contract.

Here in the UK thousands of properties are bought and sold each month often without a hitch as people move on to new homes, new places of business and cash in on their property’s value. However, there are times when things do not go exactly to plan and in such instances, it is wise to have experienced legal representatives in your corner. Our team of legal property experts have the legal know-how and experience to protect against, and advise on, a wide range of property issues, helping ensure your assets are protected. To find out more contact us on 0330 123 1229.