In most property sales, the homeowner will take just about everything in the home with them. Pictures will be removed from walls; wardrobes will be cleared; televisions, toasters, microwaves and kettles will be unplugged and diligently boxed, before being hauled onto the back of a removal van.
There’s a good reason for this: you’re selling the home, not everything in it. It might seem counter-intuitive, then, that so many landlords elect to sell their properties while there are still tenants living in them. But, as we’ll see, this is an approach that can make life much simpler.
Reasons for Wanting to Sell your Rental Property
To begin with, let’s look at some of the reasons you might want to sell a property you’re renting.
Recent rises in stamp duty, and a fall in tax relief on buy-to-let mortgages, have notably diminished the appetite among landlords for the business. The number of landlords looking to sell their property having more than doubled since July 2015, according to research by the National Landlords Association.
These changes might have provided you with a financial incentive to get out of the business altogether, or at the very least diversify your property portfolio.
There are also non-financial reasons for selling up. Being a landlord isn’t for everyone – and it may be that your personality isn’t a good match for the profession. More simply, you might just be bored of it, in which case finding some other way to spend your hours is surely worthwhile.
If you’re moving abroad, then you might not be in a good position to manage your property. Rather than paying an agent to do the work on your behalf, it might be better to simply sell, and acquire new properties in the area to which you’re moving.
Ready to Cash In
Selling your property will free up cash that can be invested elsewhere. This investment might be in another building, a delicatessen you’ve always fancied owning, or an Italian-made performance car.
Selling Your Rental Property with Tenants in Situ
Now that we’ve explored why you might want to sell your property, we’re still left with the question of why you’d want to do it while your tenants are still living in it. Let’s look at some possible reasons.
Immediate Income for the New Landlord
The first thing that a landlord will need to do once they’ve bought a property is find some tenants to live in it. After all, an empty property is one that isn’t making money. If a property comes with tenants included, it’ll save the buyer some hassle. While in the short-term the new owner will be bound by the terms of an existing agreement, the time will soon arrive for them to make a new one.
Less Disruption for your Tenants
Unceremoniously ejecting your tenants because you don’t want the house anymore might seem quite sensible – even despite the reputational damage it might inflict upon your brand. If you’re quitting entirely, then this might not seem like your problem – as nefarious as it might be. But tenants have a legally-protected right to remain in a property they’re paying rent for. You might even have to pay them to leave. By selling the home to a new landlord, you’ll avoid all this unpleasantness.
Preparing your Tenants
If you’re heading down this route, then it’s important to get your tenants on your side at the earliest opportunity. If they aren’t happy, then tenants can quite easily throw a proverbial spanner into the works of your transaction.
Give Them First Refusal
A fantastic goodwill gesture is to offer your tenants the opportunity to buy the property themselves. If they can’t afford the property, or don’t want to buy it, then they’ll have a reason to be happy that you’ve made the offer (or at the very least, they won’t be able to complain that you haven’t!) If they do want to buy the property, then they’ll be able to do so with minimal disruption and you’ll be no worse off.
Explain the Process
If your tenants are unwilling to buy, then they might worry about disruption to their lives. Reassure them from the earliest possible opportunity that the property is being bought as an investment, and the likelihood is that the new buyer will want to continue the current arrangement.
If your tenants seem uncooperative, then you’ll want to try and sweeten the deal before you resort to more drastic measures. A month or so of free rent might amount to less than the expense you’ll incur by going down other routes – particularly if they agree to get the property into good shape before prospective buyers stop by for an inspection!
How to Terminate a Tenancy Before You Sell your Property
In some cases, you’ll want to get rid of your tenants before selling. But, as we’ve mentioned, this is often tricky. If both parties agree, you’ll be able to surrender the tenancy at any point. In other cases, your options will be a little more limited:
A landlord will be able to end the tenancy at the end of an agreed-upon ‘fixed term’, provided that they give the tenant two months’ notice in the form of a ‘section 21’ notice to quit. If there’s been a breach of the agreement, then you might be able to end it early by applying to a court for possession of the property. You’ll want to serve a ‘section 8’ notice to quit, which will form part of the evidence the court will need before granting a possession order.
Periodic Tenancy Agreements
In cases where the tenancy rolls from week to week (or month to month) you’ll also need to provide a period of notice specified in the agreement. This must be in writing, and it must be served on the first or last day of a rental period, unless the agreement specifies otherwise.