When a house is sold, it’s generally expected that the seller will take all of their personal belongings along with them. This includes furniture, pictures, cleaning supplies, and appliances that weren’t included on the deal. This is all in the expectation that the buyer will have a clean property to move into. 

If a seller does leave personal property behind, what are the rights of the buyer? Buyers may wonder if they can move in and actually take possession of the home if belongings have been left behind. There are a few reasons that buyers may leave property behind including:

  • The item is actually a fixture and not considered personal property
  • The item could belong to a tenant (or former tenant)

In these circumstances, each state determines different rights and procedures that must happen in order for the property to be secured without hassle by the buying party.

What If There’s So Much Stuff It Impedes On Moving In?

In the case that a seller has left so many things that a buyer cannot even comfortably move into the property, the contract may be refused. If there’s an inordinate amount of furniture, trash, and personal belongings, you certainly have a good argument to not sign the final contract for the property. Your rights as a buyer do, however, depend on what exactly was written into the purchase contract for the home you’re buying. 

Hidden Items

If an item has been deemed hidden or buried, the buyers have a different circumstance on their hands. Many times, a buyer is obligated to hang onto these items for the seller. The items were not technically abandoned by the seller to the buyer. The buyer becomes what is called a “bailor,” or a keeper of the property, who needs to be an agent in the change of possession of the items.  

Possession Unknown

If the ownership of an item is unknown, the terms of the contract are held up. Standard contracts generally state that any items left behind by the seller have been forfeited to the buyer. If the contract says nothing about personal property, the buyer generally takes on the role of “bailor” again in this instance.

If The Property Owner Has Died Or The Property Has Been Abandoned

If a property has been abandoned due to foreclosure or bankruptcy, or the property owner has died, any personal property that is left behind is a bit more of a risk for both parties. These circumstances generally state that a buyer will be taking on a property “as is” and essentially anything left is the buyer’s problem. 

If a property owner has died, the executors generally take on the responsibility of removing items from the property to be distributed to the rightful beneficiaries. Occasionally, this process doesn’t work out due to family quarrels. In this case, personal property of the seller goes into the category of forfeiture. 

Personal property is just one reason why you need to understand your legal rights when you’re buying a home.

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