How can we gain early access to a property we are buying?

We are buying a property in a pretty bad state and it would be really helpful if we could get into the place to do some of the work while we still have the flat we are renting. What can we do to gain early access?

Question: We are buying a property which has been empty for some time. It was let to students and is in a pretty bad state. We want to have it rewired and have a new central heating system and it will need redecorating and new carpets. My baby is due in two months and it would be really helpful if we could get into the place to do some of the work while we still have the flat we are renting. The selling agent says we probably can’t get in until we complete. What can we do to gain early access?

Answer: You have no right to access the property prior to completion, although some sellers will allow access for limited purposes after exchange of contracts —for a buyer’s contractor to inspect the property and quote for works to be done, for example — but will not permit work to start. 

Provide your solicitor with full details of the intended works and the name of the contractors you want to use, and request schedules of work and estimates from the contractors.Your solicitor can use this information to try to agree access with the seller’s solicitor, along with the terms of a key undertaking which you are likely to be required to enter into with the seller, which will detail the purpose for which access is given and the works permitted. You must agree not to take up possession or occupation of the property prior to completion and to return the key at the end of the day to the selling agents. 

The seller may take the view that if you fail to complete he will benefit from the works you carry out — so he might just decide to allow you access.

What's your problem?
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email legalsolutions@standard.co.uk 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 is legal director in the real estate group of Foot Anstey LLP in Exeter (fiona.mcnulty@footanstey.com)

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor. 


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