Don’t let an occupation dispute spoil your housewarming

The successful sale of a house, with both buyer and seller established in their new homes and happy with the deal they have concluded, is certainly cause for celebration.

But all too often a dispute over occupation arrangements takes the glitter off the occasion – and usually because the home buyer and seller have changed the original arrangements set down in the occupation clause of the sale agreement, without writing their changes down.

It often happens, for example, that the seller finds a new home sooner than he expected and, thinking that he is doing the buyer a favour, offers to move out before the date stated in the sale agreement. However, unless the buyer has agreed in writing to the change, and actually does move in then, the property could be left empty for some time and vulnerable to damage from intruders and vandals.

Alternatively, the buyer moving from rental accommodation might ask for, and get, an earlier occupation date coinciding with the end of his lease. But unless this is committed to writing, the seller might well change his mind and leave the buyer out in the cold for a month or two.

In either case, a dispute is likely to arise over the additional costs incurred. What is more, any change in the actual occupation date will affect the calculation of occupational rent.
Consequently, buyers and sellers who wish to alter the original occupation arrangements would be well advised to ask the estate agent who negotiated the sale to draw up a proper addendum to the sale agreement and get it signed by both parties.

An experienced agent will also ensure that both buyer and seller understand the original occupation clause and its implications before the sale agreement is signed, in order to forestall the problems that can arise when changes to occupation arrangements are made unilaterally by either the seller or the buyer.

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