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What is a sitting tenant and what are your rights?

Posted on 2017-10-10

What is a sitting tenant and what are your rights? 

As more of the UK's tenants rent for the long-term, the number of so-called 'sitting tenants' is on the rise.

What is a sitting tenant?

A sitting tenant is a renter living in a property that their landlord decides to sell. If the tenant has an ongoing contract or agreement with their original landlord, then they retain the right to live in the property when it changes hands.

Some landlords actively look to purchase properties with sitting tenants as it could offer a settled and more reliable proposition if the tenants have already been living in the property for a long time.

In fact, according to Countrywide, the proportion of properties with sitting tenants purchased by landlords reached a ten-year high in 2015.

The letting agency’s research found that sitting tenants tend to have lived in their home significantly longer than the average tenant. For example, a quarter had signed contracts of two years or longer, compared to 5% of tenants overall.

What should you expect?

If your landlord informs you they are going to sell the property you’re living in, there’s a number of things that might occur once the property has changed hands.

The new landlord may:

  • allow the tenancy to continue as before;
  • try to evict you if they want new tenants or to stop letting the property;
  • make plans to improve or renovate the property.

What are your rights?

When purchasing the rental property, the new landlord takes on your existing Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST) and is bound by the original tenancy agreement as you are.

If your tenancy agreement is an AST - which is highly likely - then the landlord will, however, be entitled to evict you by serving a Section 21 notice.

What procedures should be followed?

The vast majority of the administration, paperwork and responsibility falls on the side of the new landlord when it comes to sitting tenants. However, there are some things which you can look out for and monitor to make sure the changeover runs smoothly.

It's good practice to meet your new landlord. Although it is up to them to organise and suggest a meeting, make the effort to be available. Putting a face to a name can benefit both parties in the long run.

When the sale of the property is completed you should see an S3 notice to make you aware of the transfer of interest in the property. You’ll also see an S48 and/or S47 notice detailing who your new landlord is.

Upon taking ownership of the property, the new landlord will need to contact the deposit protection scheme your deposit is being held with and change the details. If the landlord doesn't confirm this with you it could be worth asking. What's more, if they transfer your deposit between schemes, make sure they provide you with the prescribed information as this is a legal requirement.

If you are a sitting tenant, in most cases it’s unlikely that much will change except for the fact that you’ll be dealing with a new landlord. The chances are the new owner will be enthusiastic about the property they’ve just purchased and therefore willing to invest in improving it and subsequently keeping long-term tenants happy.

That said, if your landlord is selling your property and you have any concerns about the process or your legal rights, it’s best to get in touch with a legal expert, housing charity, experienced letting agent or Citizens Advice for guidance.


Disclaimer: The content of this page was last updated on 10th October 2017. Whilst we’ve prepared the information within this page with care and have made every attempt to ensure that the information at the time of publication is accurate, this information shouldn’t be relied upon as a substitute for formal advice. The information contained in this content is for general information purposes only, we reserve the right to edit, discontinue or withdraw this at any time. 

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