What is Vacant Possession?
Mar 24, 2017
Vacant possession is a term which really is confined to legal talk. But you’ll almost certainly come across it if you are buying or selling a home, or if you’re a landlord or tenant in a leasehold arrangement.
So what exactly is vacant possession? Well, it is a standard provision in a contract for the sale of property. (It also features in leases, but we’ll stick with ‘buyer/seller/sale’, to keep this simple.) Its meaning is quite simple: the seller must move out and take their belongings, leaving the premises empty and available for the new owner to enjoy. Any legal constraints, such as a lease on the property, must also be dealt with.
Should it really need to be pointed out to sellers that they shouldn’t leave old sofas, bags of rubbish, tenants, or even pets (it happens)? The short answer is yes. A vacant possession clause in a sale agreement gives a buyer a solid legal foundation on which to base some sort of remedial action if things go wrong. More than that, it should prevent the problem from happening in the first place by focussing the seller’s mind on the things they must sort out before completion.
Sellers can only meet these obligations if they understand what ‘vacant’ means in the context of their property. Recognising the difference between removable possessions and fixtures is really important in this. What are the things that you’ll have to clear out, and what is to stay as part of the purchase?
Although the onus is on sellers here, a buyer should have their wits about them from the moment they first view the property. Are any of its features or its condition a cause for concern? A large, rotting climbing frame in the garden? Signs of a lodger? Tell your conveyancing solicitor about anything that troubles you.
Nobody wants to get into legal arguments about the state of a property, particularly a seller who just wants to move on and a buyer who’s been looking forward to beginning their next chapter in a new home. But sometimes it’s necessary. In serious cases, sales fall through and the sellers become liable for damages. So, whichever side of the transaction you’re on, it pays to get a handle on the idea of vacant possession.
Return to News