What happens if home seller took an item he promised to leave?

How do handle disputes over transfers of personal property during a home closing.

Question

The sellers had agreed to leave the large carpet in the living room in the house we are buying. It fit the room just right, and we agreed to drop some repair requests in consideration of them leaving the carpet. We just did our final walk through and found out that the sellers took the carpet with them. Do we have any recourse?

Answer

The short answer is – it depends.

If the home seller's agreement to leave the carpet was put into writing in the Purchase and Sale Agreement, then you do have some recourse. If it was not put into writing, then you may be out of luck.

Agreements relating to real estate must be in writing in order to be enforceable. That is why it is important for homebuyers to let their agent or attorney know what should be included in the Purchase & Sale Agreement (“P&S”) and to read the P&S carefully before signing it.

Assuming that the agreement to leave the carpet was incorporated into the P&S, you do have some recourse against the seller. The P&S specifies the condition in which the seller must deliver the property, including what items are staying. If you do your final walk through of the house and find that the condition is not the same as is specified in the P&S or that some items are missing, you likely have the ability to delay or cancel the closing (depending, specifically, on the terms of the P&S).

However, you probably do not want to cancel the purchase of your house simply because of a missing carpet. A delay of the closing may be more reasonable, assuming the moving truck is not already filled with your belongings on its way to the new house. You could delay the closing for a day or two until the seller can bring the carpet back to the house on the grounds that the house was not delivered in accordance with the terms of the P&S.

A more likely resolution would be to negotiate reimbursement for the cost of replacing the carpet.

If you are located in a state where you have an attorney representing you in the purchase (such as Massachusetts), your attorney should be able to negotiate either compensation from the sellers or a delay to the closing so that the sellers can return the carpet. If you are in a non-attorney state, your real estate agent should be able to handle this same negotiation.

One caveat – before delaying or changing the closing date, check with your lender to make sure that any closing delay does not affect your approval or ability to close. Loan approvals often contain dates by which the rate or underwriting documents expire. Closings that occur beyond those dates may need to go back to the lender for a new approval.

Odds are that the seller needs the transaction to move forward in a timely manner too and will either bring the carpet back promptly or compensate you for the cost.

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