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What to do if there are fixtures and fittings missing?

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So you have picked up the keys from the estate agents and arrived at your dream house, only to find that your seller has left the property in a mess and taken the white goods with them, when you were sure that they were to be included in the sale. So where do you stand legally?

By law, the vendor is under an obligation to leave the property in the condition that you saw it in, allowing for reasonable wear and tear between exchange and completion, and to leave behind all items agreed in the sale contract.

Naturally, at this point, you may be feeling angry, frustrated or disappointed, or all of these. One of the best things you could do is contact your legal advisor in the first instance to notify them of the situation. They can check the correct position by looking at the seller’s responses to additional enquiries, and the fixtures, fittings and contents form attached to the back of the sale contract on exchange of contracts.

Clearly, if the seller confirmed that they would ensure they will remove all rubbish and leave the property in a neat and tidy manner, as well as leave the white goods for no additional money, then they have committed a material breach of the contract.

Matters are not always straight forward

However, often matters are not so straight forward, as the seller is only expected to leave the property in a “reasonable condition”, which clearly differs from individual to individual and what if the white goods have been donated to a charity a few weeks prior to completion, in which case there is minimal chance of retrieving these.

One option would be to arrange for the mess to be cleared up and send your legal advisor the invoice for arranging the skip and buying new white goods, again providing invoices so that these can be sent to the seller’s solicitor. However, once the sale transaction has completed, the solicitor is unlikely to chase their client for these, as they will not be paid by their client for this extra work and so they have little motivation to help at all. You could pursue the matter within the small claims court, but often it is not worth it financially for you.

Clearly, it seems unfair, but the best piece of advice that we can give you, is to check the property thoroughly before exchange of contracts and also the day before completion, re-confirm the position with the fixtures and fittings and let your legal advisor know as they could refuse to complete on the day until the property is in the condition you saw it in when you initially made an offer and it would avoid any issues about items being taken when they should have been left, ensuring a happy ending for all parties concerned.