Should I let the purchaser have access to the property before we legally complete?
After exchange of contracts, some purchasers will want access to the property before the day of completion. In some circumstances, this isn’t a problem. For example, if they simply want to measure for curtains or take a final look around, this visit can be supervised by an estate agent and no keys need to be handed over.
However, if the purchaser wants access for a longer period of time (e.g. to start decorating) and will be requiring a set of keys, this is something that will need to be negotiated between the parties’ solicitors and the seller, in particular, should give some serious consideration.
The property does not belong to the purchaser until the day of legal completion and therefore the seller should treat any requests for access with caution. Once the purchaser has got a set of keys and has moved into the property, they may lose their motivation to complete. In addition, if the purchaser fails to complete on the agreed date, it could become difficult to remove them from the property if they are already in occupation. A residential occupier cannot be removed from a property without an eviction order from the court, which would be costly and take time.
Because of the risks involved, if a purchaser requests anything other than a normal inspection of the property, it would be sensible for the seller to refuse. After all, in most cases, the purchaser would not have long to wait until legal completion. Alternatively, the parties could agree an earlier completion date, although the purchaser would have to ensure that they can obtain mortgage finance in time.
If You Really Must…
There may be times where the seller does agree to give the purchaser access, such as when there is a long period between exchange and completion, or if the property is in need of repairs, which the purchaser has agreed to carry out. In those circumstances, there will need to be conditions in place to state on what terms the purchaser has access.
The standard contract terms which we use in our conveyancing team do provide some protection to the seller in these circumstances. Standard Condition 5.2 states that the purchaser would be occupying the property under the terms of a licence, not as a tenancy. There are standard terms of the licence set out in the contract terms, but these may need amending in some circumstances. For example, the standard terms state that the purchaser will not alter the property, but this could be limiting if repair works are needed.
If you are considering granting access to a purchaser between exchange and completion, we would strongly recommend that you discuss this with your conveyancer and make sure that the terms are agreed in writing before any keys are handed over.
If you want to discuss the contents of this article, contact Sarah Ryan on 01525 372 140 or sarahr_at_austinandcarnley.co.uk.
The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.
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