Unwanted Leftovers

Thanksgiving is officially over, and with it comes the end of many heated tableside arguments and debates – What is the best Thanksgiving food? Which relative is going to ruin the Thanksgiving this year? Do we really need to build a wall!?! While Thanksgiving disputes and festivities may be over, there is one thing which we all love that will stay with us well beyond Thanksgiving Day – leftovers! Ah, but leftovers bring with them perhaps the greatest familial debate of them all, and no I’m not talking about the best way to make a Thanksgiving leftover sandwich (turkey, stuffing, and gravy on a bun, obviously): how long is too long to hang onto those precious leftovers? You would have to pry leftover stuffing from this author’s cold dead hands, but I’m told not everyone likes eating the same things for days on end and some are quick to move on for some reason… To each their own, I guess!

We have all been in a situation during the moving process when, after spending countless hours organizing, packing, and moving our belongings, there still remains leftover “stuff” that we – like family members arguing over lack of fridge space for leftovers — just don’t know what to do with. This stuff usually includes belongings that did not fit conveniently into the boxes you packed or things that you just don’t have the energy to go back for after you made one too many trips to your new residence. But hey, you might as well just leave it behind and give the Buyer a nice little bonus house warming gift, right? Wrong! That stuff that you left behind could result in a delayed or canceled closing. While the question of when to throw out Thanksgiving leftovers will be debated among family members forever, there can be no debate about when a Seller needs to remove their stuff from the Property. It must be removed prior to closing!

Section 6 (a) of the Standard Florida FAR/BAR Residential Contract for Sale and Purchase provides that “at closing, Seller shall have removed all personal items and trash from the Property …” We have had several recent closings which were delayed at the last minute because this language was either ignored or overlooked. Oftentimes this occurs when a Seller lives out of state and is not willing or able to return to the Property prior to closing. In the recent instances where stuff being left behind became an issue, the Listing Agents were the ones forced to remove the stuff themselves as a last resort. In order to avoid spending your time and money clearing out the Seller’s home in the hours leading up to closing, keep these few tips in mind and avoid the issue altogether:

1. Develop a plan early. If it is apparent that the Seller might not be able to clear out the property completely before the closing date, it is important that a plan is agreed to as early in the process as possible. This might include paying a service to clear out the Property for the Seller. If the Seller knows that they are going to leave belongings behind, for whatever reason, make sure to notify the Buyer and list those items in the contract.

2. Stress that it is not optional. Sellers might justifiably feel that they are doing the buyer a favor by leaving something behind, and that may be the case in certain circumstances. However, besides being a requirement of the contract, failing to remove all of your stuff can result in a major inconvenience to the Buyer, and the Buyer cannot fully move in if the Seller’s stuff is still there.

3. Make other arrangements. If the Seller is not willing and able to remove her stuff and it is too close to closing to have a service remove the stuff from the Property, another option would be to provide the Buyer a credit towards paying a service to remove the stuff after closing. The goal here is to avoid being in the predicament where removing the stuff yourself is the only option to avoid a delayed closing! If this solution is necessary, speak to your real estate attorney about drafting an addendum to the contract prior to closing.

While removing leftover “stuff” is probably not high on a Seller’s list of concerns throughout the closing process, it is something that is often overlooked and can easily delay or cancel a closing if left until the last minute. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about this or any other real estate matter, please contact your trusted local real estate attorney.

Berlin Patten Ebling, PLLC

Article Authored by Andrew Conaboy, Esq. aconaboy@berlinpatten.com

This communication is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship, and to the extent anything contained herein could be construed as legal advice or guidance, you are strongly encouraged to consult with your own attorney before relying upon any information contained herein.

All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.


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