What if Sellers Aren’t Completely Out of the Home at the Time of Closing?

Question

My Buyers recently closed on a home.  When we arrived at the property after closing, Buyers found many items left in the home by Sellers that the Buyers don’t want.

The items look like junk – probably the reason Sellers did not reserve any of these items.  Very annoying to say the least!

Over the past week, we’ve tried contacting the Sellers numerous times to come pick up the stuff, but the Sellers aren’t returning our phone calls.

My Buyers decided to put all the stuff at the curb for the Sellers or City to come pick up.

How do I prevent this situation from occurring for future deals?

 

Answer

Believe it or not, Sellers not being fully out of a house at the time of closing happens often.

Sometimes, Buyers are dealing with Sellers not being completely moved out of the house prior to closing and asking Buyers for additional time to remove all of their stuff after closing.

This has practical and legal consequences.

Practically speaking, most Buyers have arranged to move all of their stuff into the new home at the time of closing and don’t have the luxury of waiting for Sellers to move out once the closing occurs.

Legally speaking, Sellers not being fully moved out by the time of closing can create a liability situation for Buyers.  For example, if someone helping the Sellers move their stuff after closing is injured on the property, who is responsible for that injury?  If the Buyers and Sellers don’t have something in writing to the contrary, there is very good chance the Buyers will be picking up the tab for that injury!

If the Sellers have virtually “moved out” at the time of closing, but there are still a few items left in the house that need to be removed, then that can fall under two additional scenarios:  was it accidental or on purposes?

Sometimes, Sellers accidentally leave a few items in the home; the parties make arrangements for the Sellers to come pick up the stuff and by the end of the closing day or the next, the Sellers pick up all of their stuff.

Other times, the scenario turns into your scenario above – the items are just junk the Sellers don’t want to deal with moving so they just leave it for the Buyers to deal with.

Unfortunately, there’s not a standard provision in the Purchase Agreement dealing with the scenario where the Sellers have not moved out of the house by closing or the scenario where the Sellers leave items in the house following closing.

Based on the wording of the current Purchase Agreement, it is a good idea for the Real Estate Agent to “think ahead” and prevent either of these situations from happening.

To do this, the Agent could include language in the “Additional Terms and Conditions” section requiring the Sellers to be out of the house by a certain time period prior to closing and attaching a penalty provision if the Sellers do not comply.

The penalty provision could call for Sellers to owe Buyers monetary damages or it could be as strong as stating Sellers shall be in “Breach” of the Purchase Agreement.  With “Breach of Contract” the Sellers could potentially be on the hook for the penalties outlined in Lines 253-263 of the Purchase Agreement.  That’s a pretty strong penalty risk that should kick every Seller into gear in moving out!!

Additionally, it might be wise for the language to  state that all items left at the house at the time closing shall become the property of Buyers and Buyers may dispose of the property as they see fit, including but not limited to selling the property and retaining any and all monies derived from the sale of the items.