Buyer wants access before completion? SAM Conveyancing explains the process and the risks involved
Buyer wants access before completion?
Our experienced conveyancing solicitors can advise you during this process, as well as help with key undertaking.

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Buyer Wants Access Before Completion

(Last Updated: 07/12/2023)
6 min read
Once you find the property of your dreams, naturally, you will want access to it as soon as possible. You will want to move in quickly, start redecorating, or even conduct works on the property. However, there are clear steps you must take in the conveyancing process. Exchange of contracts is usually the moment when the sale and purchase feel definite for both sides, since you then become legally bound to complete.

On completion day, the solicitors get the keys, which are then passed on to the buyer. This is all done when the money is transferred and the deal is finalised. However, what happens if the buyer wants access before completion? There are different implications, depending which side you're on and we discuss them in this article.

Who owns a property between exchange and completion?

  • Seller

  • Buyer

After contracts are exchanged, the buyer becomes legally bound to purchase the property. This also means they are responsible for getting the house insured. However, legally, the seller still owns the property.

Do you need home insurance?
When choosing your insurance policy, it is important you compare quotes, so you get the best cover for your property and your specific needs.

Although rare, because it involves penalties, either party can change their mind and pull out of the transaction. You can read more about this in our article - 'Can I pull out after exchange of contracts?'. Since the deal can still fall through, the seller will still legally own the property until completion day.

  • Squatters - These are individuals who occupy your property without your permission. If the buyer wants access before completion and you agree to this, they will not immediately be classed as squatters. However, once inside the property, the buyers can refuse to leave. It is illegal to physically remove anyone from your property, so you will need to start a legal process, which will delay your sale.
  • Works - If the buyer damages the property in any way, only to then pull out of the transaction, you will be forced to pay for the repairs.
  • Building Insurance - After exchange of contracts, you will be responsible for getting the property insured. You will need contents insurance after you move in, but it might be more cost effective to take out both at the same time. Should the deal fall through, you might be able to switch the property, but it will cost you.
  • Works - If you are granted access before completion, you can start conducting any necessary works on the property. However, the seller is still the legal owner of the property, so if the deal fails, they are not liable to compensate you for your loss

Sellers are not legally required to agree to it if buyer wants access before completion. They are still the legal owners of the property, so as a buyer, you can either accept this and organise your moving in process for after completion day, or pull out of the transaction, pay the necessary penalties and find another property. Your conveyancer can advise you on that.

Can I give keys to buyer before completion?

Generally, you are not supposed to give the keys to your buyer until completion. You can grant them access for surveys, for example, but this should be supervised. Having an experience solicitor acting in your name is essential, as they will advise you on whether to grant access or not.

A buyer can get access before completion with a key undertaking. This is an agreement drafted by a conveyancing solicitor which states that the seller will grant you the keys, and therefore access to the property before completion. This is usually done so that the buyers can start any necessary works, and they are forbidden from moving their personal belongings on the premises.

With key undertaking, the buyer has to promise in return that they will not take possession of or occupy the property.

The challenge with this method is that the seller can still pull out of the transaction at any stage. Like we mentioned above, if the buyer starts to carry out works on the property and the deal falls through, they cannot hold the seller accountable for their financial loss.
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Laura Cristian - Digital Marketing Assistant - Meet the team - SAM Conveyancing
Written by:
Laura has a talent for data analysis and fact-finding. She is an advertising graduate with a broad range of skills in the web marketing field within conveyancing sector. She works closely with our panel of solicitors and surveyors to understand our clients' needs and challenges and to write the most valuable content for you.
Andrew Boast of Sam Conveyancing
Reviewed by:
Andrew started his career in 2000 working within conveyancing solicitor firms and grew hands on knowledge of a wide variety of conveyancing challenges and solutions. After helping in excess of 50,000 clients in his career, he uses all this experience within his article writing for SAM, mainstream media and his self published book How to Buy a House Without Killing Anyone.

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