Any advice on moving into a repossessed home please?(31 Posts)
Hi. This property has been empty for at least two years. It's being sold by a company. They are unable to tell us if the utilities are working and, although we're able to access the property with estate agents present (to get brief visits by tradespeople for quotes etc) they have so far refused us permission to access the keys ourselves prior to completion. We're asking again as we really need to get the house cleaned before moving in, before the furniture's all in ideally.
Just wondered if anyone has been in a similar situation before and has any advice on a smooth transition. Completion is looking likely within a few weeks. We have a toddler, and I am six months pregnant so don't want to move into an unliveable home (but I can stay with parents briefly if I need to!)
The utility companies should be able to tell you if the property has been disconnected. You need to contact the network operator, not the retailer, in your area for gas and electricity and the local water company and see if they can help.
If there's central heating and so on, you really need a plumber/Gas Safe engineer to come and check everything over once the gas is back on if it's been off for a long time. Have the electrics properly checked and so on. When a place has been repossessed, sometimes desperation has led people to remove all sorts of stuff to sell or save money.
In your shoes I wouldn't look to move straight in.
Forgot to say, if you can access the meters, find the meter serial numbers and the MPANs, if you can, as that will help the operators locate the property.
There's no way you'll get the keys before possession, so I'd count on bridging or extending your lease for a couple of weeks.
You will probably need to stay with your parents. Houses like this have usually been de-energised & getting the services reconnected can be a total nightmare, it was for me anyway. Water was ok but gas/electric was very difficult.
I think you may be optimistic about getting the keys before completion, they would have no good reason to let you have them.
Thank you for the advice in your first paragraph I'll make some calls tomorrow. We were banking on getting the electrics, boiler, water all checked by professionals before completion but it looks like the company selling will scupper that for us
Oops that was to the first reply - cross posted! Will read other replies now.
I agree, I would assume the worst in terms of it not being immediately liveable and not getting the keys till completion, and have everything checked thoroughly.
Agent we're also selling so no lease to extend!
Lord - the way I see it they've got no good reason NOT to let us have the keys. But I'm sure you're right in that they won't change their mind.
Our last house was a repo. We moved straight in.
I contacted utilities a few weeks before completion, British Gas were able to tell me who supplied the property, and arrange for us to switch to them and be switched on the day we moved in.
We also had a plumber and electrician in on the day we moved in, as some plug sockets and radiators had been ripped off the wall - that had been picked up by the surveyor.
Water will probably have just been switched off in the house, you can do that yourself.
I basically went in ahead of the removal van with a few of my family, and we swept and mopped two rooms in which we unloaded all our furniture and boxes, and scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom so that it was at least clean to cook and get washed.
We slept on camping beds, all of us in one room, for a couple of nights while giving the whole place a thorough clean, and took it from there.
If you can stay with your parents for a short while, I would.
They won't give you the keys.
Before exchange you could move in, not exchange and squat. After exchange and before completion you could damage the property whilst it was legally still belonging to others e.g. if you caused a flood or fire that damaged other property. That would be a nightmare to sort out. Standard legal advice is never to give the keys before completion.
We moved into a repossessed house once. It was like squatting for a while. No gas supply for a while. We had electricity but only because there was a team of electricians on standby to redo the wiring everywhere the moment we got the keys. There was water but some sinks/toilets/showers couldn't be used because of damage done by the previous owner. There were bare floors, it was cold. It was ok for us, there were no kids. I wouldn't do it with a toddler and pregnant. I'd arrange to stay elsewhere for at least a week, ideally longer and have tradespeople booked to get the services on and everything usable. Given it's been 2 years you need a minimum of wiring and fuse board checked, boiler and any gas appliances serviced, heating system flushed, someone to get the water on.
They won't give the keys prior to sale, due to insurance requirements.
Call Transco to find out the gas supplier. This page gives some useful advice. You'll need to find out your MPAN for the electric meter(s), &the MPAN for the gas. AFAIK there should only be one MPAN & 1 MPRN per property.
You may be able to register with your choice of utility company. Need to make sure you get all the meter details though, some meters are hidden, a real pain if there are extra, unexpected meters.
The water, gas & electric will almost certainly be turned off at the meter box / mains. This is for insurance - it's not unknown for a fault to cause major damage to unoccupied properties - eg pipes freezing & then bursting.
I would not assume you can move in on completion day. If you need to access it, will the mortgage company accept a key undertaking for access between exchange & completion? It's worth asking about.
We had a similar situation (empty for 2 years, utilities switched off etc). We didn't move in for a month or so but that was because it was easier to decorate empty and it needed new windows. The water was fine to switch on but the boiler needed replaced and new radiators put in and the gas fire was condemned. And we needed a new electrical board thingy. I guess if you had a team of tradesmen on hand for the moving day then you could move in quickly. We were lucky in that the property was in good condition and we got it at a cheap price so weren't bothered by the extra unexpected work. Took ages to actually get everything signed and sealed though, much longer than estimated. The bank that owned it didn't seem in a hurry to shift it and there was another company involved somehow.
I'd buy another repossession if it was a good deal. I'd read horror stories about the old owners trashing the place and being bothered by debt collectors for their old debts but we had none of that.
Wow thanks for all the replies, really useful.
Telephone - a key undertaking is the very thing we've been asking for. I can see the potential risks for a seller, but if there are contracts and insurance in place then I can't see the problem. I guess it's just less hassle for them to say no. Thank you for the links as well.
Wicked - you've given me some hope that it may not be as bad as I'm expecting! We have some great tradespeople on hand but obviously booking them in quickly will be the challenge.
The house isn't in too much of a state, just the decor is a few decades old and it needs a good scrub. We'll redo it all when money allows, it will be a beautiful home eventually. Just need to be able to live in it for a while first!
talking of keys = job 1 on arrival, get locks changed.
Sorry, on re-reading my earlier post: should say MPAN for the electric meter/s, & MPRN for gas. Damn phone!
I would assume none of the services work as well. Some repossessions have historic debt on the utilities, which may have been cut off before eviction or while it stood empty. Utility companies are really crap at dealing with mortgagees in possession
I'm looking at you, British Gas. Make sure you take opening meter reads & photos of all the meters so you can prove the reads at the day of completion. Also find out what documents you can send to prove the sale date - the Land Registry is not an accurate reflection of the date that ownership/liability was transferred.
Have your passport or another photo ID ready. Debts could have been run up and if Baliffs turn up you will need to prove who you are.
DS bought a property where the previous owner had CCJs against the value of the house. These were dealt with by the solicitor, but debt agencies came to the door chasing the previous owner. He used his passport to prove who he was.
Good advice from others here, do a bit of homework with utility companies to try and get everything switched on the day you move in, have an electrician and gas safe person check everything on the first day too. You could always phone a few companies to work work out who would be most likely to be free at a weeks notice when you get a moving date. Our removals men were great and waited for us to rip up the carpet in each of the rooms before they put our things in there. We had already decided before we moved which rooms we would use for what and what room we would decorate first (bedroom! The most important!) Got removals to leave this room empty, and put all the boxes in one room and furniture in another so we could find things easily. We slept on the sofa bed in the lounge because it smelt the least...
If you see any final warning letters, open them and phone the company up to explain. I was scared to open other people's post at first and got loads of bailiffs who I had to show my ID to make them go away! When I started phoning the companies and giving telling them who I was and when I moved in they were all very nice and it stopped the majority of visits.
I've renovated one house now which was empty as I rented, and another which dp and I lived in. It's definitely harder living in, but doable. Concentrate your efforts on one room which you can get decorated and livable in a few days and can retreat to and forget the rest of the house!
we bought a repo just over 2 years ago now.
we had a month interval between completion and moving in, which was essential. gave us time to ensure all utilities were connected and up and running (we even managed to have functioning broadband prior to move day).
the biggest problem we had was we knew the central heating hadn't been drained down prior to the 2 or 3 years the property had been vacant - there were clear signs of water damage, and knew there were burst pipes in the eaves. the day after completion, we had a team of plumbers come in to the property to rectify the multiple problems we knew would occur the second we switched on the mains water. they had to repair or replace about 10 sections of pipework, and i cant tell you how upsetting it was to see water pouring from the leaks through the ceiling of all 3 floors, and every time one leak was repaired, another one sprung up!
anyway, all leaks were sorted, and we then had to repair the water damage in the affected parts of the building - which meant removing damaged plaster, treating damaged timbers, replastering, reflooring in parts.
we also took the opportunity during the month period of moving in to get all electrics inspected and repaired as necessary (and there were indeed some dangerous electrics) as well as ensuring boilers were working, repaired as necessary and serviced, as well as making sure we had hot water and heating. once oil was delivered (oil fired boilers) i basically left the heating on pretty much full, with some window open, for 3 weeks in order to dry the house out.
the month before moving day also allowed us to get all essential white goods delivered prior to us moving in (cooker, fridge, freezer, washing machine etc).
of course, you could move in and everything be absolutely fine from day 1, but i would strongly suggest you make some alternative accommodation arrangements for you and your family for at least a week or two, just to give yourself the opportunity and peace of mind to make sure all utilities are working, and more importantly SAFE, not least of all because you are pregnant and have a baby. please take particular care with regards to electricity and carbon monoxide.
If you've exchanged contracts (but not completed) the only thing the seller has any right to, if you walked away between exchange and completion, is the deposit.
If the seller let you have the keys, and you damaged the property, started alterations etc, the seller might incur costs that far outweighed the deposit. No commercially astute seller would let you have the keys and its unreasonable to expect them to allow it. Its just a risk for the seller that isn't worth taking.
"If you've exchanged contracts (but not completed) the only thing the seller has any right to, if you walked away between exchange and completion, is the deposit. "
Not true: the buyer is in breach of contract, and the seller can sue for damages. If the market is good and the house can be easily re-sold for a similar price, the deposit will be considered sufficient, and no additional damages are reasonable. But if, for instance, the market drops and the house can only be subsequently sold for a much lower value, the seller can seek the difference from the (former) buyer.
It's pretty rare, though.
OK point taken, sorry. I should have been more thorough to say ordinarily, thats the only easy recourse for a seller. A seller wouldn't want the whole inconvenience / hassle of suing for damages or pursuing the buyer (where there is no guarantee that they'd actually get those monies). Sorry OP, Wuffleflump is right but doesn't change the point that no seller in their right mind would risk it.
We bought a repo once. Hopefully you will have a far better experience.
All the gas pipes (ecept the main supply) had been ripped out and so had most of the plumbing. they'd also soaked the kitchen to the extent that the surface collapsed as soon as we put one box on it.
On top of that they'd kindly left us a mouldering piece of meat in the oven.
We did get it cheap though but it was a long time before we could move in
That's ok Telephone, I knew what you meant
Special and Kronenburg good points thank you for the reminders about changing locks and carbon monoxide risk.
Namechange and Wuffle I would have thought a key undertaking agreement would remove risks for both parties. For example all we want to do before completion is clean the property and fill the water system to see if the heating works. If we signed to say that and did something else which was detrimental to the property then I'd expect to be prosecuted!
Lists that sounds awful we're popping in at the weekend with the agents - I'll be checking inside the oven!!
Have you exchanged? If not, make clear that you won't until it is proven that electricity and gas are mainly function and the heating works and that BT confirm there is a phone line that just needs switching on (ditto cable if previously activated).
Were there no lights on in the house when you saw it? Our house was empty for 2 years but the owners turned the utilities on again for our visit when we negotiated an offer, and exchange was conditional on the heating being made to work and a bit of damp being fixed with a transferable guarantee.
We got cleaners in on the day of completion and moved stuff in as they finished various rooms - the kitchen was done the following day. Needed one of us to get the keys off the agent and let them in, and electricity for Hoovers.
We found a letter addressed to the new owners from the boiler fitter, saying he had no idea how he'd got the 40-year-old outside boiler to work, was sure it would die very soon, and please get a new one ASAP even if it wasn't from them!
We got the whole plumbing system redone that month - was a rather cold week!
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