How To Sell A House With Sitting TenantsFor those who play their cards wisely, owning a property for rental purposes can be a great source of additional income. Issues do arise, however, if you decide you wish to sell the property.
If you are selling your own personal residence, the process itself is quite simple:
- Contact your agent of choice.
- Schedule viewings for any interested parties.
- Accept your preferred offer and communicate with the relevant solicitors and conveyancers to complete the sale.
If, however, you are a landlord who is interested in selling a house with sitting tenants, then it is important to be aware of the legal hurdles you may encounter on the way to a successful sale.
Can you sell a house with sitting tenants?
Thanks to the various government acts that have been introduced into law over the last century, a tenant with a legally binding tenancy agreement will enjoy more rights that you would expect – but for any landlord of a reasonable nature, these agreements do not necessarily have to be perceived as an obstacle.
A tenancy agreement is an agreement between both the landlord and tenant that aims to protect both parties and avoid any ambiguity with regard to acceptable living conditions, term lengths and contracted payments.
For many landlords who rent their properties out to long-term reliable tenants, a mutual respect and friendly relationship is often cultivated, and even though the owner would be selling a house with sitting tenants, the sales process itself can be completed with little attrition. There are, however, often situations across the country whereby landlords fail to adhere to the tenancy agreement – and these often drag the entire process out for much longer than is necessary.
Which legal stipulations should I be aware of, if I am planning on selling a property with sitting tenants?
Most agreements are referred to as an Assured Short Hold Tenancy Agreement (AST), which provides a minimum term during which the tenant is allowed to stay in the property without fear of eviction – the length of which is usually six months.
If a landlord is planning on selling a property with sitting tenants, then prospective buyers will undoubtedly wish to see the property prior to making an offer. Those who enjoy a good relationship with their tenants will often reach an amicable arrangement that suits both parties. Landlords who do not enjoy such a relationship, on the other hand, may need the backing of a legal framework to allow for viewings.
The strength of your rights as the property owner entirely depends on the strength of the initial tenancy agreement. A well-drafted agreement will include clauses that allow a landlord access to the property as long as sufficient notice is given. A failure to include such a clause will leave you at the mercy of your tenants, as the property itself is legally their residence and they are entitled to their privacy.
These clauses are important as they do not require a given reason for such access, and as a result, simply require a notice period of 24 hours for the tenants in question. If a tenant refuses, then they are in breach of contract and can leave themselves open to legal proceedings (as long as the frequency and length of said visits are not considered an infringement on the tenant’s right to “quiet enjoyment” of the property).
How can I sell my house with tenants in it?
As a vendor, it is important to realise that if you are planning on selling a property with sitting tenants, if the minimum term of the AST has not expired, whoever purchases the house is obliged to observe the terms of the agreement until it is completed.
If the minimum term for the AST has expired, then there are more options available to you as the vendor. Standard practice dictates that tenants should be given a minimum of two months’ notice to vacate the property, and although this is not legally enforced, it is often the best route to take to limit the likelihood of a tenant refusing to leave in protest.
While an empty house may appeal to a greater range of potential buyers, selling a property with tenants can hold an immense appeal to certain parties:
- For a career landlord, the benefit of not having to source new tenants and enjoying immediate access to rental payments is a great boon.
- For local housing authorities who are looking for rental properties for council housing, finding a landlord who is selling a house with sitting tenants allows them to reach their government-set targets for the given year.
- A sale to the tenants themselves can avoid the need for the involvement of agents and ensures a clean transfer of ownership with minimal disruption to either party.
Avoiding the difficulties associated with selling a house with sitting tenants
The ease with which a landlord can sell their rental property is often a reflection of their relationship with the sitting tenants. Those who treat their renters with respect and adhere to the legal framework documented in the tenancy agreement will almost always enjoy a more hassle-free experience than those who attempt to cut corners in an effort to maximise profit and ignore the law.
While many tenants can be appeased through kindness and respect, there will, regrettably, always be the occasional tenant who wishes to make the situation much more difficult than necessary.