In recent months there has been a noticeable increased demand in the BTL investment market for tenanted properties, this could be linked to the fact that tenants are renting for the longer term now and regarding properties as their home rather than a stop gap.

Leeds and Bristol showed the highest increase in demand with 55%, closely followed by Nottingham 51%, Cambridge 47% and Southampton with a 40% increase in demand.

However, the market is slow to catch up with demand, with Leeds only having 2.9% of properties on the market which are tenanted, Bristol 0.7%, Cambridge 1.8% and Southampton 1.6%.

In contrast Cardiff has the highest number of tenanted properties on the market for sale at 3.7% with a demand increase of only 38%.

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Buying a property with a tenant in situ also referred to as a sitting tenant, can bring a number of benefits to the BTL investor.

Void free?

Firstly, there will be no void period after the sale when you would normally be advertising for a tenant, this in turn will mean a saving on agency fees.

You inherit a reliable, trustworthy tenant which is extremely valuable to any landlord and you are guaranteed rental income from day one, you will be able to budget with confidence, knowing the rent you will receive until at least the end of the existing tenancy agreement in addition you will have access to the tenants full rental history something you may not get when using a referencing firm with a new tenant.

With a contract in place, tenants need not be affected at all by a change in the ownership of a rental property, ensuring their happiness and willingness to remain in their home is undiminished.

But it isn’t as simple as it sounds, nothing in property ever is.

It is important to remember when buying with a tenant in situ, the tenant will be entitled to continue to live in the property and the change of ownership does not override the tenancy agreement and the tenant’s rights.

You will not be able to evict or increase rents until a fixed term tenancy ends and depending on when the tenant took up occupation, you may find you have a Protected tenancy which brings its own problems

Buying a property with tenants in situ is different to the normal sales process and will need a conveyancer with commercial experience.

Extra care is needed as in addition to the standard enquiries that need to be made in all conveyancing transactions, it is critical to make enquiries about the tenants.

It is important the seller provides all the details relating to the tenant, including the Tenancy Agreement this is key to establish when the tenancy was created, the status of the tenants and how they may be regulated by legislation, as different forms of security apply to different tenancies.

You will also need to ensure the seller has been compliant and how this will impact you as the buyer, checking the original deposit has been registered and after the sale transferring it to your name, you will need to protect it again, and reissue the prescribed information.

Making sure the property meets safety regulations and all the necessary certificates are in place, such as energy performance, gas and electrical.

(if furnished) that the furniture is in an acceptable condition and meets safety standards.

In an industry where there is a notice for just about everything, it is important to familiarise yourself with the notices and their timelines that will need to be served on the tenants once the property is purchased.

Section 3 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985

Section 3 places a mandatory duty on a new landlord to tell the tenant that they are in fact the new owner, having taken over from the old one, this is still the case even if the seller has already informed the tenant.

The new owner must give this notice no later than next rent due date or 2 months from the date of sale, it must inform the tenant that they are the new landlord and must provide their name and address (this must be the landlord’s actual address, not just an address for service of documents).

Important caveats

If the new landlord has not served a S3 notice on the tenant then the previous owner remains liable for any breaches of the tenancy agreement, such as disrepair, until the notice is given, in addition  both the old and the new landlord can be held jointly and severally liable for any breach.

More importantly S3(3) states A person who is the new landlord under a tenancy falling within subsection (1) and who fails, without reasonable excuse to give the notice required by that subsection, commits a summary offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.

In short this means being prosecuted in the Magistrates court and the scale 4 fine is currently £2,500.

Section 47 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987

S47 requires that any written demand for rent by the landlord to the tenant, must include the landlord’s name and residential address and if that address is not in England and Wales, an address within England and Wales is required, so notices can be served. The purpose of the requirement under Section 47 is not to give the tenant information as to where the notices can be served, but to confirm the identity of the landlord. Using a managing agent’s address does not confirm the landlord’s identity, as it is not the landlord’s actual address.

Section 48 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987

Section 48 of the Act prevents landlords being able to seek possession of the property on grounds of rent arrears until the tenant has been provided with an address at which notices in proceedings can be served and the tenant will not be liable to pay rent until the landlord complies.

Interestingly S48 does not state that the landlord’s personal address is required for the amounts to become due. So a landlord can seek possession of a property on rent arrears grounds or the arrears themselves if he has provided an address at which notices and proceedings can be served. This address can be the landlord’s own address, that of the landlord’s letting agent, solicitor or friend. The address can also be a business address, preferably a registered office.

Finally, if a tenant has already paid rent on a defective rent demand, he or she may well be able to claw back up to six years’ payments on the basis that they were paid under an invalid demand.

Visit the HSPN website.

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