Should you rent your house to a buyer between exchange and completion?

My father is trying to sell the house he inherited from his mother. The buyer wants a long completion date and to move in after exchange and pay rent until completion. Is this a good idea?

Question: My grandmother died recently and my father inherited her house. He is trying to sell it and his estate agents say they have a buyer who is prepared to pay a very good price. This buyer wants a long completion date of six months but says he could move in after exchange of contracts as the property is empty, and pay my father rent until completion. Is this acceptable? 

Answer: It would be wise to establish why the buyer needs six months. If it is to raise funds, there is a risk he may fail to do so and be unable to complete after six months. Your father could let him occupy the house between exchange of contracts and completion but if rent is paid, a tenancy will be created.

If the buyer failed to complete the purchase and also refused to quit the property, your father would have to get a court order for possession. While a tenancy can be created for whatever period the parties want, court proceedings for possession cannot start until six months have passed. You father would also need to make sure the necessary notices were served, properly and on time, to make sure he could start the court claim.

Your father should consider how long the property has been on the market, whether there has been much interest in it, or any other offers, and if the price being offered is worth the risk involved. He can then decide whether he wants to exchange contracts with this buyer so that he has some certainty - even if it means waiting six months for the sale to be completed - or just leave the house on the market to see what other offers appear.

What's your problem? 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 partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (

Retrospective warranties can be expensive, but if the seller wants to sell the property to a buyer who needs a mortgage then it may be the only way forward.

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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