Vacant possession is a term used in residential conveyancing to set expectations for completion day. Following the date and time set for completion, the buyer of a property should expect to receive the keys and find that the previous owner has removed all possessions from your new home. So, if you have opened the doors to your new abode to discover discarded items left behind, then what are your rights?
Before you exchange contracts, you will have received a fittings and contents form which details the items which are included as part of the sale. Typically, these might include light fittings, curtains, or white goods, but these can all be negotiated between conveyancing solicitors prior to the exchange of contracts. A buyer isn’t obliged to accept these items if they’re listed on the contents form but should make it clear they wish for them to be removed beforehand.
If you suspect that personal property may be left behind, then it may be prudent to organise a final inspection either the day before, or on the day of completion. If your inspection proves that your seller isn’t fully ready to vacate the property, then you can ask for your solicitor to hold off on completing with the seller’s solicitor until all of their personal possessions have been removed. Estate agents in Gravesend say that there are significant costs associated with failing to complete, which would fall to the seller if they hold up the chain.
When you arrive in the property, the main house may be clear, but don’t forget to check the loft, garage or shed for personal possessions which may have been left behind, either accidentally or purposefully. Take pictures as evidence as soon as you discover anything which needs to be discarded.
If the seller has failed to meet their contractual responsibilities regarding vacant possession, then you have a right to pursue a claim against them for the removal of these items.
Your first step should be to inform the seller that they have left personal possessions behind. From a legal point of view, these still belong to them, so you are obliged to write to them confirming that you will store their possessions, at a cost, for a certain period of time, after which you will dispose of them.
Your solicitor may be able to assist you, but be aware that this area of law falls under litigation rather than conveyancing. So, if your solicitor specialises purely in conveyancing, then they may not be willing to take this on.
You may be able to charge your seller for costs such as skip hire, storage, petrol to a waste and recycling centre, and even overnight hotel stays depending on the volume of possessions left behind. If you wish to pursue claiming this money back from your vendor, you can either do so personally or by going through the Small Claims Court.
Finding personal property or junk left behind in your new home can be upsetting during an otherwise exciting move. If you have yet to exchange or complete, but are worried about the possibility of being left with your seller’s possessions, then speak to your solicitor today and book your Final Inspection appointment asap.