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Seller’s Kind Gesture or Buyer’s Burden? The Dilemma of Leftover Belongings in Home Closings

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The hustle and bustle of the moving process can sometimes cause the Seller to leave behind leftover belongings. Sometimes, out of the goodness of their heart, a Seller believes they are leaving behind furniture that they know the Buyer would want to keep. While the Seller might intend this as a nice gesture, the Buyer and Seller often have different tastes, and that leftover couch is now a nuisance that the Buyer doesn’t want to deal with post-closing.

The Seller’s Responsibility

Section 6(a) of the Standard and AS/IS Florida FAR/BAR Residential Contracts for Sale and Purchase states that the Seller is responsible for ensuring that “at closing, Seller shall have removed all personal items and trash from the Property…” This means that while they may think they are doing Buyer a favor, the Seller is responsible for removing all personal items from the property prior to Closing.

Avoiding Last-Minute Surprises

To avoid these issues becoming the Buyer’s responsibility post-closing, there are a few strategies to ensure a smooth Closing:

  1. Clarify Non-Negotiability: It’s imperative to stress that the removal of personal items is not optional. While Sellers may believe they are offering a kind gesture by leaving items behind, it can often lead to inconveniences for the Buyer and potentially delay their move-in process. The contractual obligation to remove all personal belongings prior to Closing is not only a legal requirement but also ensures a hassle-free handover.
  2. Plan a Walk-Thru Pre-Closing: To guarantee that the Seller has removed all personal items, plan to conduct a walk-thru prior to Closing so if any items are remaining, the Seller can have them removed promptly or hire a professional service to do so. 
  3. Negotiate a Credit: If the Seller is unable to manage the removal of items in a timely manner, consider offering the Buyer a credit to cover the cost of a professional removal service post-Closing. Talk to a real estate attorney to draft an amendment to the contract, clarifying the details of this arrangement.

Even though Seller may truly believe they are doing Buyer a favor by leaving those garage storage bins (or one of the many other items we have seen left behind over the years), your Buyer must have a home free of Seller’s items to move into.  A surprise pile of personal items could lead to unexpected delays or even derail the Closing altogether.

If you have any questions or concerns about this or any other real estate matter, please contact your  real estate attorney.

Jill Bowen, Esq.

Jill Bowen, Esq.

Jill focuses her practice on Residential and Commercial real property transactions.

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