Does the seller have to leave the house on completion day?

15 January 2021

When you buy a property, once contracts have been exchanged and the money has been received by the seller’s Solicitors, the sale has completed. At this point 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. This means the seller and anyone else who lived there should have left the property before the sale completed. They should have also taken away any personal belongings that weren't included in the sale.

What if I get to the house and the seller is still there?

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

Sometimes moving day can be more hectic than expected though, 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 leave the property in plenty of time, some might find on the day that packing up and moving takes them longer than expected.

Although the property is legally yours, if boxes of the seller's possessions are still piled up indoors then it may be easier to allow them another hour or two to remove them. Otherwise you would need to arrange for these to be removed or disposed of yourself anyway.

In other instances, it may be that someone living in the property is refusing to leave 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 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 help you resolve any potential issues.

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 as agreed in the contract.

If unwanted items have been left behind, the first step is to ask the seller to remove them. 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 at the local tip or arrange for a waste collection company to dispose of them on your behalf. The removal and disposal 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 speak to the seller’s solicitor on your behalf and advise you on how to resolve the situation.

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