Serving Notice on Your Tenancy When You’re Buying a Property

As a First Time Buyer, you’re probably renting your current home. As you near Completion and getting the keys to your new place, one of the most important steps is serving notice on your current tenancy.

During this transition from your rental property to being a First Time Home Owner, there are four main things you should aim to do:

  • Not be homeless. You want to have your rental property at least until the day you complete and are able to get the keys to your new property
  • Not pay excess rent. You don’t want to be paying rent and a mortgage at the same time!
  • Not feel anxiety about the possibility of being homeless.
  • Not be pressured to make decisions you might regret about your first home purchase

The starting point is looking closely at your rental contract. In most cases it is an Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST). There are two important dates – the Fixed Term Date, and the Break Clause date. Along this, would be information about how much notice you have to give (e.g usually 2 months) to end the tenancy between the Break Clause Date and Fixed Term Date.

If you’re already past the Fixed Term Date, the AST has now automatically changed to a periodic tenancy, where you’ll have to serve 1 months notice if its a Statutory Periodic Tenancy (there is also a rarer Contractual Periodic Tenancy – difference explained here).

This will let you know what can happen if you complete a home purchase.

If the Break Clause Date has not been reached – you can serve the appropriate amount of Notice Period to end your tenancy on that date, but you won’t be able to end before (unless the landlord agrees).

If the Fixed Term Date has not been reached – you can serve the Notice Period mentioned in the break clause, or do nothing, and the tenancy will end on the Fixed Term Date (obviously it is common courtesy though to tell the landlord before this date if you’re moving out, say at least 3-4 weeks).

If it is now a Periodic Tenancy – then you’ll need to serve 1 months notice for a Statutory Periodic Tenancy (check your contract if its a Contractual Periodic Tenancy).

When should I serve notice on my tenancy during the house buying process?

This is a tricky question. Anytime before Exchange, the house purchase might fall through, and therefore if you serve notice too early you might run the risk of having no new home to move to, and having to move out of your existing one!

However, if you serve notice after Exchange, and you need to serve one or two months notice, this is a problem too. Normally Completion takes place within a week or at maximum a few weeks after Exchange, so you’ll be paying excess rent, which could add up to over a thousand pounds.

The 100% safest way is only to serve notice right after Exchange has happened, or to ask for a Completion date as long as your notice period. However, if you are confident that Exchange will happen, you can give notice earlier.

What if I have to move out of my rental before Completion?

This is a nightmare scenario for any First Time Buyer, but it is not the end of the world. There are several options available to you:

1. You can live with friends or family. This is a popular option, as often you only need a place for a few weeks, and it is rent free. Make sure to express your gratitude and maybe offer your future home for them to crash at if they ever need it!

2. You can find a short term let. In most major cities, there will be short term lets available, anything from weeks to a month or two. It won’t be cheap though, as short term lets have higher rentals than long term lets.

3. You can find an AirBnB. Because most of the pricing on the portal will be geared towards guests that stay a few nights at the most, the per-day rates will be pretty high. However, if you reach out to the host and offer to stay for weeks or a month, you can often negotiate a good discount on the advertised rates.

4. You can refuse to move out of your rental. This is controversial, because technically you’re breaching your contract. However, if you need an extra few days or weeks, this could be an option. There is a tenant-favourable eviction process that landlords need to follow, so rest assured you won’t be thrown out in the middle of the night or have a blemish on your credit score or criminal record. However, don’t expect to be able to stay in a rental after the Section 21 notice date, for longer than a month or two months at most.

With a bit of forward planning, and also knowing your rights as a tenant, you can mitigate many of the risks and potential nightmares that comes with trying to coordinate the ending of a tenancy with the Exchange and Completion of your first home.

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