To put it simply the seller of a home can take whatever they like from the property, provided they make it clear what they are taking. However, if the seller removes something without stating that they will be doing so, the buyer can sue.
Sometimes both sellers and buyers negotiate over the fixtures and fittings, seeing the bartering as another way to affect the final sale price. Such negotiations are liable to heat up when problematic surveys arrive. For example, if the survey has found a problem such as damp that needs to be repaired, the seller may offer to leave behind items of furniture to make up the difference instead of renegotiating the sale price.
First time buyers in particular can benefit from including things such as window coverings and white goods in the sale as it can make starting out in a new home more affordable and more comfortable.
One important factor to consider is that buyers can’t assume that what they see when they view the property, or on what is written in the estate agents’ sales details is included in the sale.
Fixture or Fitting?
According to Duncan Samuel, in the absence of information from any other agreements, usually via a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents form that the seller will be asked to fill out by their solicitor, the law states that if something is fixed down, then it has to stay. If it can be picked up and carried away it can be taken.
Briefly, fixtures are taken to be items that can’t be removed because doing so would cause damage to the property and they can include:
• Built in wardrobes
• Fitted carpets
• Bathroom suites
• Central heating systems
Whereas fittings, which can be removed, can include:
• Pictures and mirrors
• Plant pots and hanging baskets
The big proviso is that as long as the seller makes it clear that they intend to take something from the property with them, they can legally do so. Theoretically, the seller could entirely dismantle the house and leave you with an empty plot of land, provided that the buyer has signed and agreed to it.
On the other hand, if the seller takes anything that is built-in or attached without prior agreement they can be sued for the costs of replacing it.
Problem areas that you may want to watch out for
There are certain features of a property that can cause issues such as sheds, built-in home entertainment units and light fittings and it is worth paying special attention to these areas when agreeing a sale to avoid frustration and mis-understanding. If you have made a concerted effort to ensure that the seller understands that you expect the built-in home entertainment centre to remain, you are less likely to find that every speaker in the property has been removed come moving day.
The other side of the coin
While some unfortunate buyers find their home stripped of fittings and fixtures that they expected to be present and intact on the day they moved; there are other buyers who find that they have been saddled with far more than they expected – the former occupants’ old junk. To remove the offending furniture or a debris will likely incur a fee from your removals company and will certainly take more time and cause more hassle. Legally speaking, vendors who saddle their buyers with unwanted items have broken their contract by not giving the new owners vacant possession and so are liable to reimburse the buyers for their costs.
What do you do to avoid fitting and fixtures nightmares on moving day and any legal wranglings as a result?
1. Be as clear and precise as you can be on the fixtures and fittings contents form and tell your estate agent what you intend to keep, particularly if the item could be used as selling point.
2. Only take away fittings, unless previously agreed.
3. Always take away your rubbish or you could find yourself with bills for its removal
1. When you are viewing a property ask the sellers about specific items and pass the information on to your solicitor. It can be integrated into the forms so that it then forms part of the contract.However, your solicitor will usually ensure that your interests are protected by attaching an Inventory Agreement to the sales contract. The Inventory Agreement will detail the fixtures and fittings that are to be included in the transaction
2. Don’t assume something mentioned on the estate agent’s details will be staying – if you’re unsure, ask your solicitor.
3. Read the fixtures, fittings and contents form carefully.
4. Try to build a good relationship with the seller, if they like you, they are less likely to leave you without lightbulbs.
If you need more advice about fixtures & fittings or any other element of buying, selling, letting or renting property you can email us at [email protected]
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