Q. I was on target to exchange on my apartment last Friday following confirmation that the tenant had vacated. However I am horrified to learn that the tenant has not moved out despite having been served notice. I have been advised not to exchange by my solicitor until they do vacate but I’m afraid I will now lose the property if I don’t? Also, another worry is how long is it going to take to get them out, I am hearing all sorts of horror stories?
A. This is most unfortunate for you. Most tenants that are served notice comply and leave when they should even though they may be reluctant to go, unfortunately there is a small minority that that take matters into their own hands and they chose to simply ignore the notice. Sadly, the only way that the seller will be able to get them to vacate now is to apply to evict them through the courts. As you can imagine this is not a particularly quick option but the only option available. I am sure the seller is just as distressed about this situation as you are so they will be taking legal advice to action this as soon as possible. After they have made the application to the court it will then be a waiting game; unfortunately there is no definitive answer as to how long this may take. The time it takes to evict a tenant depends upon two key points: A) How Stubborn the Tenant is – a more stubborn or unreasonable tenant will force a landlord to go to the last stages of the eviction process before vacating the property. There are three stages to tenant eviction.
Stage 1 – Serving an eviction notice upon the tenant (Your seller has already done this – Section 21)
Stage 2 – Issuing proceedings through the county court to obtain an Order for Possession (approx. 6-10 weeks)
Stage 3 – Instructing court bailiffs to obtain a Warrant for Possession then to execute the Warrant to remove the tenant from the property (approx. 4-7 weeks)
It has become apparent that the timescale from issuing a claim in the court; to obtaining an Order for Possession has significantly increased over the past year. County courts currently handle around 65 new cases every day; during the first quarter of 2012 landlords started 5857 new possession claims, with 3804 cases leading to evictions. As a result of all the aforementioned points it is therefore impossible to give a definitive answer to the length of time it will take to evict a tenant. Depending on how much you want the property as long as you are in a position to hold on (have accommodation) then it will just be about patience, taking into consideration the money you have spent thus far this would be considered the best option financially. However if you cannot wait then you can pull out of the purchase altogether given you are unable to complete in the chosen timeframe. If you do decide to wait under no circumstances should you be tempted to exchange, if you do you will inherit a sitting tenant and the problem becomes yours and not the sellers, as the contract then becomes legally binding. My advice is let the seller sort the mess out and complete once the tenant has been evicted.