Legal Q&A:how can we ensure we buy the house - without the tenants?

We are buying a house that's currently let to three tenants. How can we be sure they will leave and that the property will be empty when we complete the purchase?

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Question: We are buying a house that’s currently let to three people.

We do not want to take on these tenants and wish to buy the property without them in it. How can we be sure they will leave, and that the property will be empty when we complete the purchase?

It is really important that the place is empty when we buy it because we want to renovate it. Is there anything we can do to make sure the tenants actually go?

Answer: The contract for the sale of the property should provide for vacant possession on completion. Your solicitor should check that the appropriate notice requiring possession has been served on the tenants requesting them to vacate the property.

The seller’s replies to the property information form should provide details about the occupiers of the property, and may also confirm that the occupiers/tenants will sign the contract and will vacate the house on completion. Your solicitor should ask for a copy of the tenancy agreement, which is likely to be an assured shorthold tenancy agreement, and for confirmation that any deposit is held in a tenancy deposit scheme.

Your solicitor should also request a copy of the relevant deposit certificate, along with confirmation that the prescribed information was served on the tenant prior to the notice being served, and also for details of how the notice was served. He or she should check these documents carefully. Sometimes buyers will not exchange contracts until the tenants have gone. 

If the tenants are still in occupation following completion, it may be necessary for possession proceedings to be taken against them in order to remove them.

You could request a retention in the contract to cover your costs should this be necessary.


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey. 

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