What is a sitting tenant?
Sitting tenants, like all other tenants, have the exclusive rights to live in a property under the tenancy agreement. However, a sitting tenant especially refers to the tenant involved in a property under a change of owner. So, a tenant would become a sitting tenant when he or she remain a tenancy agreement while the landlord is selling the property.
If you are going to sell or buy a house that has a sitting tenant with it, you have to know about what rights a sitting tenant has and what influences this situation might bring to you. In the same way, if you are a sitting tenant, you should know you rights as well in order to protect your interests during the house buying or selling.
Things to know if you plan to sell a property with a sitting tenant
First of all, it’s important to note that a sitting tenant means a tenant who has a legal right to continue living in a property when it changes ownership.
Sitting tenants are also called protected tenants, which means they are protected by law. Therefore, if selling a house, a landlord has no rights to evict a sitting tenant only if the tenant agrees to move out. In most cases, the tenant would not move out the property and the protected tenancy agreement would transfer with the tenant to the next owner of the property.
However, if you have decided to sell your property without a sitting tenant with it, you may issue a Section 21 notice evicting your tenant by ending an Assured Shorthold Tenancy(AST). The notice can be sent to a tenant during either a rolling periodic tenancy or fixed-term contract if there is a break clause. The notice gives a date for a tenant to leave your home. But the tenancy continues if the tenant stays past that date. You must apply to court if you still want him or her to leave. It's an illegal eviction if you try to evict the tenant without a court order. In England, a Section 21 notice must give your tenants at least 2 months' notice to leave your property.
Things to know if you plan to buy a property with a sitting tenant
In most cases, eviction and court order to evict a sitting order will be the last thing to do for a landlord who sell the house because it’s time-consuming and costly. So the tenancy might just transfer to the new landlord after the purchase of house is done.
When you buy the property with a sitting tenant, you can either let the tenancy continue without a change or just make some adjustment on the tenancy agreement especially in terms of duration and of the tenancy and the amount of rent. However, a protected tenant, who'll have a tenancy which began before January 1989, has greater rights than someone with an AST, and they may be unwilling to sign a new tenancy because they have greater rights against eviction than people on an AST and benefit.
Rights of a sitting tenant
The tenants who signed an AST with their landlord are entitled to remain in residence as long as the tenancy agreement is valid. Besides, if you are a sitting tenant who receives a Section 21 notice from your landlord, you still have rights to stay in the house even your landlord starts a court action. However, if you decide to challenge the eviction to stay longer, you may have to pay court costs.
The protected tenants signed their tenancy contract before 15 January 1989 under the Rent Act of 1977. They have greater rights than those with an AST, and therefore protected tenants would have more legal protections. For example, they have the rights to occupy a property for life without being disturbed unless they are involved in allowing the property to be used for illegal purposes. Even the court order cannot evict them from the property. Besides, they can pass on the tenancy to a spouse or another family members.