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Does the Seller Have to Leave the House on Completion Day?

24th April 2018

When you purchase a property, once contracts have been exchanged and the money has been received by the seller’s Solicitors, the house is legally yours. There will be wording in your contract which states how the house should be left. This is usually with “vacant possession” if you’re buying the property to live in, meaning that the sellers and any other occupants should have vacated the property prior to completion together with any ‘chattels’ or personal belongings not included in the contract for sale.

What if I Arrive at the House and the Seller is Still There?

If the sale has completed and the keys have been released to you, then this means that the property is now yours. If the property has been sold to you with vacant possession, then the previous owner/s should already have left the property.

Sometimes moving day can be more hectic than expected, and some sellers may be insufficiently prepared. Many people don’t realise how much stuff they actually own so might not have booked a big enough van or have enough helpers on hand. While most sellers will intend to vacate the property in plenty of time, some might find on the day that packing up and moving everything they own takes them longer than they had originally expected.

The property does become yours at the point of completion and the sellers are legally obliged to vacate at this point. However, if boxes of their possessions are still piled up indoors then it may be easier to allow the sellers an additional hour or two to get their belongings removed from the property, otherwise you will need to arrange for these to be removed or disposed of yourself at a later date.

In other instances, it may be that an occupant of the property is refusing to leave all together or purposefully dragging their heels. If you are concerned that the seller or another occupant might outstay their welcome on completion day, then speak to your Conveyancer or Conveyancing Solicitor in advance. They should be able to advise you on your legal position and the best course of action to take. It may also be useful to arrange for the estate agent to be present on the day of completion to assist in resolving any potential difficulties.

What if The Seller Leaves Items Behind?

If you arrive at your new home and find that the sellers have left behind some of their possessions or rubbish that they haven’t disposed of, then you are within your rights to ask them to remove these.

Anything that you and the seller have agreed to include in the sale should be detailed in. Often a seller might offer to include appliances or furniture in the sale, either for a specified price or for free, and you, as the buyer, can decide whether you want to agree to this. Details of these items will usually be added on to the fixtures and fittings form. The seller has an obligation to empty the house of all of their other furniture and belongings before the purchase completes and should leave the property in the state agreed in the contract

If unwanted items have been left behind, the first step would be to ask the seller to come back to the property to remove these. If the seller is unable or unwilling to take the items away, then you will need to arrange to have them removed yourself. You may decide to dispose of them yourself at the local tip or arrange for a waste collection company to dispose of them on your behalf. The removal and disposal of the items might incur a cost, which you should try to recover from the seller. If the seller refuses then your only option could be to take them to Court to recover the costs, which could end up costing you more in the long run.

Speak to your Conveyancing Solicitor, who should be able to liaise with the seller’s solicitor on your behalf and advise you on how to resolve the situation.

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