When should I instruct my solicitor?

It is always sensible for you to instruct your solicitor as soon as possible.

For the sale of a property instructing your solicitor as soon as the property is placed on the market and before a buyer is found allows time for the solicitor and client to work together to complete all the necessary forms that will become part of the final contract package and to collate all the necessary paperwork to accompany that information. It also gives the solicitor a chance to go through the title to the property and ensure there are no issues which may delay the transaction once it has started. The additional preparation time allows the solicitor to have a contract package which is exchange ready once the sale is agreed. This should also reduce the number of enquiries the buyers solicitors will need to make once they have received the pack and hopefully reduce the overall time the transaction takes to complete (subject to the constraints of the chain).

For the purchase of a property it is vital that you contact a solicitor as soon as your purchase offer has been accepted.

Is buying for investment different to purchasing a property to live in?
Your considerations on buying an investment property will be slightly different from buying a home. There are various matters to bear in mind:

• If the property is leasehold or part of a development then you are likely to have restrictions on the use of the property and this need to be checked early on. Some landlords and management companies do not allow letting to students, some do not allow lettings at all. Make sure you advise your solicitor if you are planning to buy as an investment so they can check this for you at the outset.
• If there are regulations or restrictions on use and day to day activities you should attach a copy of these to your tenancy agreement to ensure that the tenant is contracting to abide by these restrictions and that you have a means of enforcement against the tenant for any breaches. These are usually contained in your lease for a flat.
• An independent survey is particularly important in such a transaction as there are many stringent regulations imposed on residential landlords. Your surveyor should be advised that the property is being purchased with the intention of letting it out and he will then advise as to whether the property is compliant with current regulations and draw your attention to any potential problems. Many of these regulations carry a criminal sanction and if you are not confident that you have sufficient expertise in this area you are strongly advised to appoint an experienced managing agent to act on your behalf when letting.
• If you are purchasing using a mortgage it is likely that your lender will have strict requirements in relation to the letting of the property. You will need to read your offer letter very carefully. If you already have a tenancy agreement in place to start at completion then you need to provide this to your solicitor so they can verify with your lender that their requirements have been complied with. If not, you must ensure that any future tenancy complies with these conditions otherwise you will be in breach of your mortgage conditions and the lender reserves the right to call in the mortgage i.e. end the agreement and ask you to repay the full sum owed.
• If you are purchasing a property to let to students then bear in mind there are strict regulations in place by each local authority regarding what is accepted as a HMO (house in multiple occupation) and the process to be applied to each property. You need to check carefully with the local authority concerned. In particular in the urban area of the City of Canterbury and some adjacent areas the local authority has made an Article 4 Direction restricting the permitted development rights in relation to changes of use from residential use to homes in multiple occupation accommodating 3 or more unrelated people. In those areas covered by the Article 4 Direction planning permission for the use of a property as a home in multiple occupation will be required. If you are intending to let the property to 3 or more tenants who will be unrelated then planning permission will be required and you will need to contact the local authority planning department as soon as possible.