A. The simple answer to your question is no. You can go ahead and sell your property while it is tenanted. If you are selling the property as a buy-to-let, then of course the tenants will not have to move out. It might be an idea to have a chat with them and reassure them about the whole process. You will have to tell the tenants when you want to show people round – you normally have to give 24 or 48 hours’ notice – it will be in the tenancy agreement. If you are intending to sell it as a home that will be lived in by the buyer, then you have to give the tenants two months’ notice that they have to move out, so it might be an idea to wait until two months before the end of the lease before you start trying to sell. Of course, if there is a break clause in the contract then you can set the wheels in motion earlier. Remember that you will have to show potential buyers around yourself, and make sure that you tell the estate agent that as sometimes they suggest that the tenants show people round. That is rarely a good idea as the tenants probably don’t have the same enthusiasm for keeping it presentable as you do. It can be worth taking some money off their rent to encourage them to keep it clean, tidy and smelling good. Alternatively, you can hire a cleaner to ensure that it is in a saleable state.
Q. Dear Louise, I have been renting a flat with two of my friends for a number of months, but one of them now says that she wants to move on elsewhere. The landlord says that we have to cover the whole rent, even if we haven’t found a new person to move in. Is this right?
A. I’m afraid so. It’s a common misconception of people who have been living in student accomodation that they are only responsible for their own portion of the rent, but in the open market things are different. I am assuming that you all signed a joint tenancy agreement, which is the usual practice. This would mean that you are all jointly liable to pay all bills, the council tax, telephone bill, and so on. If you think that it might be hard to find a new person to take the place and you are worried about being landed with a bill, then you might want to agree that the flatmate who is leaving is responsible for finding a replacement person, and that she has to keep paying the rent and bills until somebody else moves in. Remember too that you will have to notify the landlord of the change in tennant and he will expect to get full references. He will have to agree to the new tenant and there will have to be an addendum to the agreement. There shouldn’t be any problem, but giving as much notice as possible can’t hurt – remember that the landlord doesn’t have to agree and can say no if he wants. But he ought to feel more secure about getting the full rent if there are three rather than two people. Also remember that if there is a managing agent, they might charge you to make the change. Really, that shouldn’t be more than £50-£100. Either the old or the new tenant will have to pay that.
Our rental expert is Louise Savage, director of Residential Land, London’s largest prime central London landlord.