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Selling house and tenants refusing to let agents in to do viewings and have changed locks

(52 Posts)
Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 19:37:11

Hi does anyone have any advice.

We own a house in London and let it out to tenants who have been there since October last year.

Ten days ago we were advised by the Estate Agents that the tenants do not wish to renew as they have "found places that are cheaper".

So we decided to ask the agents to value it with a view to selling it. It was valued at a decent price so we decided to go ahead and put it on the market. For clarification, the same Estate Agents who do the letting are now the ones marketing it for sale.

In the Tenancy Agreement it says that the tenants have to allow "reasonable access" for viewings for the two months prior to vacation. The tenants are being very dificult and have said that, at best, they will only allow access one day per week, and this can only be midweek, not a weekend.

Obviously the agent has said this is not acceptable and has tried to come to an agreement that viewings can take place on one weekday and Saturdays (which is still not ideal).

The tenant has now informed the agent that they have changed the locks.

The tenants have a baby who I think is around six months old. From what I can gather, this is the main reason they are being difficult as they think the viewings will disrupt the baby. Whilst I can understand this, surely they have no legal right to deny access like this? I would have more sympathy for them if it was not them who had decided not to renew the tenancy.

Sorry for being long winded, did not want to miss out any vital info!

Anyone got any advice / experience?

Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 20:05:53

Anyone?

CarGirl Mon 24-Aug-09 20:13:17

Any chance they were just hoping to negotiate cheaper rent from you?

I do think they've broken their tenancy agreement by changing the locks.

Did you take out tenancy insurance or whatever it's called?

sazlocks Mon 24-Aug-09 20:14:47

It sounds like you need to seek legal advice. You can sometimes get this free with a union or house insurance but I am not sure whether this will cover a commercial enterprise such as letting houses.
I think there might be a useful landlord website - like landlord resources or somethibg like that if you google which may help.
Hopefully someone who knows more will be here soon.

theyoungvisiter Mon 24-Aug-09 20:18:04

I don't know what the legalities are, but if you can possibly afford it I wonder if you would be better off waiting until they've gone and then marketing it afterwards.

Firstly because you can be sure it will be in pristine condition and secondly because the tenants sound very uncooperative and might put off potential buyers.

You might find you get a quicker and better offer that way, saving you time and stress in the long run.

Changing the locks sounds bonkers and totally unacceptable btw. Surely they have to provide you and the agent with a key or they're in breach of something or other?

Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 20:27:28

I think maybe they were hoping to negotiate cheaper rent, but they never asked if it was possible, or if we would consider it, just that they would not renew (we would not have wanted to drop rent anyway as was already £100 a month less than it let for the year before).

We did want to sell at some point anyway, so seemed a perfect opportunity rather than having to look for new tenants again (house was empty for 5 weeks last year as took 3 months to find someone).

Changing locks is not allowed without getting prior permission and providing agents with a copy of the new key(s).

It will definitely be easier to sell when empty as would look a lot better without all the clutter (nothing wrong with clutter btw, my own home is the clutter champion), but would be great to get rid of it asap as there are no other 2-bed houses in the area on the market at the mo.

I do worry about them saying something to potential buyers (if they let them through the door...).

We have a lawyer instructed re: the sale of the house so I could ask them for advice, but not sure if they would be allowed to give it free (they are no sale-no fee lawyers so does this mean they can't advise on what is essentially the letting part rather than the sale part, if that makes sense??).

Am now hoping the tenants are not on MN...

Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 20:28:44

Oh forgot to look into tenancy insurance. It has all been done through Estate Agents so maybe that is included in their management fee [hopeful].

theyoungvisiter Mon 24-Aug-09 20:34:40

I'm sure they don't have any right to deny access but if you force it, I wonder if it might sour the atmosphere to the extent that they don't tidy up and/or hang around making remarks about the drummer next door!

My worry would be if you put it on with them there and they put people off (deliberately or not), you may not get any offers initially, and then you might find the "shine" has worn off the listing by the time the tenants leave.

And then you will have a lovely clean empty house, but the property will have gone a bit stale and the estate agent will have used up their list of interested parties.

I'm not saying that WILL happen, but that would be my concern, and it is still a shaky market at the moment so you probably want your property to be as spanking as possible from the get go. You might save yourself money in the long run by waiting until they are gone, Sarah Beeneying it to the nth degree, and then hoping for a quick sale.

Reallytired Mon 24-Aug-09 20:35:13

Your tenant is also allowed peaceful enjoyment of their property. In return you are being given a fairly large sum of cash. It is not the tenants problems how you pay your mortgage when they leave.

Your tenants are completely within their rights not to renew their tenancy. Provided they have paid their rent they should be allowed peaceful enjoyment.

However they should not have changed the locks.

It is people like you who give landlords a bad name. I would never treat our tenants like this. I think you should wait until the tenants vacate before marketing the property. Do you really want buyers seeing your flat looking like a bomb site.

FabBakerGirlIsBack Mon 24-Aug-09 20:37:08

It's a rum do when you don't have keys to your own house.

CantThinkofFunnyName Mon 24-Aug-09 20:38:04

Think i would be tempted to give them notice immediately so you can get on and sell the property with it vacant. Ensure that the deposit is kept back until you have the keys!

theyoungvisiter Mon 24-Aug-09 20:41:49

reallytired - I think you are being a bit harsh.

All Egg wants to do is market the property - it is perfectly normal to ask a tenant to allow viewings to take place while they're in the house.

(I have never rented out a flat as a landlord, but I rented one as a tenant myself many times before I bought, and every time I was expected to let people view the property before I vacated and was happy to do so.)

msrisotto Mon 24-Aug-09 20:42:36

Reallytired - they have stipulated access for viewings in the tenancy agreement. The only people giving anyone a bad name is the tenants.

Changing the locks is insane and you can go and get that changed now, they have no right.

stoppingat3 Mon 24-Aug-09 20:43:56

Hello, I am a landlord and tenant lawyer but would recomend that you back up anything I say with a call to your letting agents who should be able to get you access to legal advice with a view to the whole picture and agreement[insert standard lawyer escape route emoticon].
On the whole whilst it may say that you have a right to remarket/enter/not change locks, in practical terms there is not a huge amount you can do about it.
If you are lucky they will either move out or agree to stay on.
If you were my client I would advise you to contact the tenants and ask them to provide a copy of the new keys. Tell them that if they fail to do so they are in breach of their agreement and that should you have to incur the costs of obtaining a further key, or changing the locks again, this will come from their deposit.
Refer them to the clause in the agreement that allows access and advise them that they do not have to be in the property when the agent wishes to attend.
On the whole see if you can persuade them to play ball.
At the end of the day as pp says you do not want to be showing prospective buyers into an environment with hostile tenants. Your property will look a lot better without it being deliberately left untidy, or without every fault being pointed out (believe me I have heard of it all).
Your agent should be able to explain to prospective buyers that there are tenants in situ and that viewings can be arranged when they vacate. It may be worthwhile asking the agents to take more pictures than normal to asist interested parties.
Good luck!

Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 20:44:38

Thanks reallytired hmm.

FWIW, we rent out the property we live in. If we tell our landlords we are moving out, I know they will need to remarket it for either re-letting or a sale. I have three small children and I will not stop the agents showing people round as long as I don't have to keep the place spotless and they don't come after 6pm at night.

It is in their Tenancy Agreement, which they signed, that they need to allow reasonable access to the property for remarketing, for the two months prior to vacating the property.

Why on earth am I giving landlords a bad name? They will always be asked if a viewing is convenient for them, they will always have 24hrs prior notice, etc etc.

And of course they are within their rights not to renew their tenancy. Just as we are then within our rights to want to remarket the place. It would be the exact same situation from their point of view if the property was being remarketed to find a new tenant instead of to sell it.

Egg Mon 24-Aug-09 20:49:24

Sorry, when I say we "rent out" the property we live in, I mean we rent it, ie, we are tenants. Hope that makes sense.

Thanks to stoppingat3 for your advice, and to others as well for support and advice smile. It did cross my mind to contact the tenants myself (after speaking to the agents to check it was ok) and explain that I know how hard it is having a house marketed when you are living there with a small child, and that I do not expect them to keep it spotless, or even tidy, just to allow access!

Am off to read the Tenancy Agreement properly now.

CarGirl Mon 24-Aug-09 20:51:01

perhaps you can put in writing to them about what times of day would viewing be acceptable on say a Wednesday & Saturday as you can undestand that they need to take their babies routine into account?

CarGirl Mon 24-Aug-09 20:55:14

perhaps you can put in writing to them about what times of day would viewing be acceptable on say a Wednesday & Saturday as you can undestand that they need to take their babies routine into account?

MiddleClassBitch Mon 24-Aug-09 20:55:20

reallytired what a stupid, ill thought post. I suggest you get some sleep, and come back when you are feeling a little less tired! smile

Stoppingat3 what an excellent post, has reminded me to write some extra clauses into my tenancy agreement before we have people in.

Egg I hope it gets solved ASAP, I'm sure if you speak with the tenants it will get ironed out quickly. Estate agents can sometimes appear abrupt and their approach can leave a lot to be desired.

Good luck, let us know how you get on.

Reallytired Mon 24-Aug-09 20:57:41

The tenants have already given notice. They want to leave. If you piss them off you might find that they refuse to pay any rent. They won't care about losing their desposit.

Ultimately there is absoultely nothing you can do. The tenants are in a very powerful position especially as they have a baby. It is quite hard to evict a tenant, even if they have broken the tenancy agreement. You would need a court order.

In this sort of situation I think you would find the judge would be in sympathy with the tenant.

herbgarden Mon 24-Aug-09 21:02:34

Egg sorry you're having a bad time.

I have literally just exchanged on a house we bought to get us out of a chain and had rented out. The couple also had small kids but I was lucky as we came to an arrangement that the agent always called them to make it a convenient time for viewings and cut out the middle men. Sometimes the place wasn't amazingly tidy but we had to live with that fact if we wanted the sale agreed whilst still getting an income. Luckily our tenant was reasonable - are they not prepared to play ball on timings ? If you allow them to make the viewings call rather than strictly specifying a day then that might give them flexibility. I also understand the weekend thing but could you ask if they are going to be away on any weekend whether they might allow viewings then ?

It's difficult as although the agreement says they can't be unreasonable/must allow access etc unless you are prepared to push the issue or take it further and get lawyers involved, you might just have to face the fact that you'll have to wait til they're out and then hope that the sale goes through and you're not waiting too long - you won't really be able to get another tenant in as you'll need them out (sometimes by exchange - some lawyers don't like the tenant being in there when exchange takes place). Our tenant left in July, our last rent payment was June and we complete in September. The sale was agreed in May....

It's frustrating but unless you can agree something on a practical level I think you might have to take it on the chin.

Also if you start throwing the legal book at them you might just make matters even worse. These things can sometimes escalate out of hand.

Good luck and you have my sympathy. It's a frustrating business

expatinscotland Mon 24-Aug-09 21:02:50

they sound nuts! and we privatly rent, too!

BUT, i'd be tempted to just keep schtum until they leave because i'd be afraid they'd trash the place.

oh, and i'd deduct the cost of changing the locks again from their deposit.

CantThinkofFunnyName Mon 24-Aug-09 21:05:51

Reallytired - that quite frankly is bllcks. They are in the wrong LEGALLY. Stoppingat3 gave a great post outlining what she should do.

giantkatestacks Mon 24-Aug-09 21:08:29

I would like to add that IME as a longterm renter, estate agents always tell you that they will give you notice for showing people round but in practice never do (why would they - they are only interested in the commission) - its not right that your tenants have changed the locks obv but estate agents can be a little economical with the truth in this respect.

I would wait until they have moved out.

CarGirl Mon 24-Aug-09 21:12:58

Perhaps you could ask them to agree to a viewing morning or afternoon one Saturday or Sunday? That way the estate agent can get lots of interested people through the doors at once and the tenants only get disturbed once?

Perhaps you could speak to them and ask if there is a problem with the lettings agent, perhaps they have done something to really get their backs up that you are completely unaware of?

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