Last edited 25 Nov 2015

Vacant possession

When property is sold, leased or vacated, it is common that agreements require that ‘vacant possession’ (VP) is given so that the property is physically and legally fit for occupation.

This generally means that:

  • The property must be empty of people.
  • The property must be empty of chattels (moveable objects such as furniture or substantial quantities of rubbish).
  • No other parties have the right or ability to occupy the property (for example, under a lease or license).
  • No other parties have the right to possess the property (for example, under certain circumstances, a right to possession under a compulsory purchase order).

Vacant possession is generally an express term of agreements, but under certain circumstances it may be implied.

There are exceptions to the requirement for vacant possession, for example if it has not been possible to hand-over keys it may be permitted for security guards to remain on the premises, or if remaining chattels do not interfere with the use of the property.

There may be a requirement to remove fixtures as well as chattels, however, failure to do so will not constitute failure to give vacant possession.

Failure to give vacant possession may constitute a breach of contract, which might result in termination of the contract, an application for specific performance, loss of deposit, and / or a claim for damages. It can also be an obstacle to a break clause in a lease, leaving the tenant in possession of the premises and so with a continuing liability to pay rent.

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