Buying property with "vacant possession"

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    Buying property with "vacant possession"

    What happens if a property is sold "with vacant possession" but the tenants either do not move out or move out then move back in on the day of completion (eg they still have the keys).

    What recourse do the new owners have either a) against the tenants or b) against the previous owner.

    I can see two issues:

    1. The tenants could claim they were never served notices
    2. The previous owner could claim that the tenants had moved out.

    Would the new owner just sue the previous owner for breach of contract/specific performance? How would the old owner kick out the tenants in this case? As they are not the owner any more they can no longer serve notice. Would the new owner serve notice and still sue the old landlord for lost rent and any unpaid liabilities (eg council tax)/losses?

    Assume for this example (and it is only an example, at this stage...... - honest) that the tenants stopped paying rent about 2 months ago and the completion is due any time soon.
    Liability statement. My liability to you is not to exceed the amount you are paying for my recommendations or advice.

    I see a bright new future, where chickens can cross the road with no fear of having their motives questioned

    A. V has contracted to sell, so V has to deliver what he agreed- vacant possession.
    B. If contract was exchanged on that basis, at a time when T still had a tenancy, V is in breach.
    C. P has no more rights against T than V himself had.
    D. P should therefore sue (or threaten to sue) V for breach of contract.
    E. Either V has to clear out T [legally!] or pay P for loss sustained.
    F. After P completes purchase, he takes-over V's rights and obtains V's Letter of Authority addressed to T.
    Last edited by jeffrey; 03-05-2007, 10:18 AM.
    JEFFREY SHAW, solicitor [and Topic Expert], Nether Edge Law*
    1. Public advice is believed accurate, but I accept no legal responsibility except to direct-paying private clients.
    2. Telephone advice: see
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      As I have posted before, in days of yore, I did my own conveyancing to acquire my first ever property and read about the pre-completion inspection which is needed in just the circumstances you describe. I did one and believe it or not, completion was delayed while vendor removed an unexpeced tenant who had broken back in to re-assert her "rights"!
      In 99% of cases a sale/purchase with vacant possession involves the vendor moving out and purchaser moving in on completion day so such an inspection is unnecessary. However when purchasing a formerly tenanted property, such an inspection is advisable. All the purchaser needs to do is to view the property just before completion, advising his conveyancer not to complete until this inpection has been completed. If, when viewing the property (with the vendor's estate agent) there is any evidence that the property has not been vacated by the tenant, then completion MUST NOT take place until the situation is sorted out.

      Any information given in this post is based on my personal experience as a landlord, what I have learned from this and other boards and elsewhere. It is not to be relied on. Definitive advice is only available from a Solicitor or other appropriately qualified person.


        Too right PP. Purchased a flat 18 months ago and didn't have a good vibe from the tenants there. Insisted on seeing the flat with vacant possession on exchange. Flat was empty.

        Went by the flat a couple of days later, lights were on. Just knew tenants were back. Spoke to solicitor and told him I wanted to inspect the flat on morning of completion (not day before note!) and lo and behold the little buggers still there.

        Refused to complete until vacant possession. Owner got rid and I went and stood in flat as completion took place. Immediately changed locks.

        I thenk yow!


          I always arrange with Estate agent to enter property on day of completion. Not just to ensure vacant possession but also to ensure that I am getting exactly what I've paid for. I phone solicitor from property to authorise transfer of funds and then hang around until keys released.


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