Can the seller take items after the sale?

Can the seller take items after the sale?
Can the seller take items after the sale?

Where is that rose bush from the courtyard? What happened to the mirror in the bathroom? Where did the dishwasher go? Wasn’t there a hose reel on the side of the garden shed?

These things were there when they signed the offer to buy and they assumed would be staying with the house as part of the purchase.

So, where exactly do buyers stand legally in this situation of missing items?

Thankfully, the law is on their side but it comes down to proper process. It’s about making sure the responsibilities of the seller have been met and that the paperwork was thorough at the time of signing the contract to purchase.

The seller has an obligation to advise the real estate agent if anything is excluded from the sale. This should be reflected in the contract.

Owners have the right to exclude some things from a sale if they choose, but it’s important this is made clear at the beginning of the process.

Usually, anything deemed to be a fixture will stay. This generally includes things that are nailed, screwed or otherwise fixed such as mirrors, floor coverings, curtains, towel racks, television aerials, light fittings and ceiling fans. But it also includes plants, paving slabs and garden sheds.

REIWA recommends that sellers fill out a disclosure statement when they offer a place for sale and REIWA agents have these available. They are not compulsory but they do give the agent a written record of exactly what is being sold and if anything is being removed by the outgoing owner.

Owners have the right to exclude some things from a sale if they choose, but it’s important this is made clear at the beginning of the process.

In the standard REIWA contract for the sale of land, it is a condition that the seller warrants ‘the property will be in the same state and condition it was in immediately before the contract date.’

If a seller wants to keep the dishwasher or a sentimental rose bush for example, that’s permissible so long as it’s properly declared to potential purchasers.

Buyers should always ask if anything is being excluded in a sale and, provided the selling agent has been correctly advised by the owner, there will be no misunderstandings.

Most often when things are removed after a sale it’s due to ignorance of the law by the outgoing owner and can usually be quickly remedied by the agent.

However, if buyers find this isn’t the case, that both they and the agent were not properly advised and the seller is being difficult, then buyers can take the matter to the local court to seek compensation for missing items.

David Airey

David Airey

David Airey is president of the Real Estate Institute of Western Australia.

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