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Buying a property with a council tenant still living in it


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Hi everyone

I'd really appreciate it if someone could help me with this query. I've searched this site and haven't been able to find any questions on the same topic (& haven't had any luck searching other housing-related sites either). I can't believe I'm the only person in this situation ... but there's no advice out there!

Here's the problem:

I've had an offer accepted on a flat in North London which is currently being let to a council tenant. From what I can determine the flat is let to the council, rather than to the tenant himself. The estate agent putting the sale through assured me that the tenant had been given notice and would be moved out by the end of May. It was only *after* doing the survey and having a revised offer accepted that the vendor happened to mention that the tenant was a council tenant and that he would not be out for sure by May, but that she would ring the council and see how long it would take for him to move out. This is not good news for me because I have a fixed-rate mortgage deal which will expire, and for other reasons (changing jobs, giving notice to my current landlord etc) I would like to know when exactly I can move into the new property and thus when to set the exchange and completion dates.

I rang the council (Haringey) for their advice but they said they couldn't give me any as it was a conflict of interest (ie. they would have been giving me advice on how best to get rid of them from a property!). They said that the tenant could not be evicted if there was nowhere else for him to go, and that he would have to go onto a waiting list. How long would it take to rehouse him? I asked. They said, " a long time. We've had people that had to wait a year to be rehoused." So now it looks like it may take at least a year to get rid of the tenant, and at the earliest three months.

I have read all the good stuff on this site about how to evict council tenants by serving notices, but this tenant has been well-behaved, hasn't gotten behind on the rent, has a little daughter, and I'm unsure whether the current landlord - or the council - would have the right to evict him. I don't want to cause problems for him either as he's been very good about letting me into the house to inspect the property etc, but I am worried about losing my fixed-rate mortgage deal, and also the longer this goes on the more chance there is of me being gazumped. The vendor is in no rush to sell at all, in fact she keeps talking about getting a higher price the longer the property stays on the market. I have no doubt she would screw me over in a second if someone waltzed in with a higher price for the property.

So that's the story (sorry for length). My questions are:

* has anyone been in this situation before - as vendor, buyer or tenant? - who can give me more information?

* what rights does the landlord have to evict a council tenant if they have done nothing wrong? (I know normal tenants can be served notice, but is this different if it's the council that is the tenant?)

* what rights do I have as the buyer to get the moving-the-tenant-out process going? (At the moment I don't think I have any rights at all, as I have no legal relationship to the property.)

* How much notice do local councils require to get people on their housing lists out of properties? and is it in fact true that if the current tenant has nowhere else to go because of a shortage of council properties, the council can insist that the tenant stay in their current property?

* Should I bail out of this transaction now? (I really don't want to ... it's in a nice area and I like the property and am very unlikely to be able to afford anything in the area if I don't buy it within the next few months ...)

Thanks very much in advance for any help you can give!

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First - you need to find out on what basis the flat has been let - and to whom

Ideally through your conveyance solicitor but if time is of essence propbably quicker to get it yourself - Ask the vendor for a copy of the lease issued

If it is the council it will probbly be an FRI lease held for several years - you will need to examine this in great detail probably with the help of your solicitor to find out what the notice terms are and see where you are going.

If it is an AST then you can serve 2 months notice as long as it is not b4 initial period stated in the lease.

The vendor should be able to give you this information with one phone call as he was probably the one that let it

You have no rights until you are the legal owner -other than to make vacant possession a condition of the transaction.

You should not proceed any further with this purchase until you have these facts in front of you - !

Let us know what happens


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