Thursday, April 24, 2014 / by Natasha Tomlinson
We purchased a home a couple of months ago and just moved into it last week. Because we are from out of town, our REALTOR did the final walk-through the day before closing. She found everything to be in order.
The standard contract has a paragraph entitled "Personal Property and Fixtures", which list a number of items - including refrigerator - which are to be checked off to confirm that they will convey with the property. If your contact does not have the refrigerator box checked, the seller is not legally obligated to leave it in the house.
A fixture is something that is physically attached to the property - such as a chandelier or a built-in wall cabinet. A refrigerator is not a fixture. While the custom in this area is that refrigerators convey with the property, in California, for example, they do not.
But custom is not law. While it would appear that your seller took advantage of you, especially by taking the fridge out at the last moment, if your contact is silent as to its status, you may be out of luck.
You certainly can retain a lawyer to review your situation, but the legal fee will probably be the same - if not more - than you paid for the new refrigerator.
You should also discuss the situation with your real estate agent. If your sales contract contains the paragraph which lists what personal property is to convey, ask why the refrigerator was not checked off. It may have been an oversight on the part of your agent, but that oversight has cost you money, and perhaps your agent will share some of that expense with you.
Here are some suggestions for the next time you buy a house.
First, buyers are entitled to a pre-settlement walk through. This should take place the morning of settlement, and not the day before. It should be done during daylight hours, so that the entire house can be carefully inspected. And while I appreciate that you were not available to personally make the inspection, that was your problem. It is your house, and you personally should have conducted the inspection.
Second, all blanks in a real estate sales contract must be filled in, even if you merely write in "Not Applicable" (N/A). The paragraph that lists the personal property and fixtures has a box to be checked of "yes" or "no", and each and every box must be checked off.
Third, if the seller makes certain representations to you, make sure they are reflected in your sales contract. If you cannot find space in the contract document itself, use an addendum that incorporates those verbal statements. And make sure that you incorporate by reference the MLS document into your sales contract.
Finally, you should have inspected the house immediately after you went to closing. By waiting a couple of months, you lost any leverage you may have had with your seller. Over the years, legislation has been enacted by State and local governments designed to protect the consumer. But despite these laws, buying a house is still Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware. Over the years, legislation has been enacted by State and local governments designed to protect the consumer. But despite these laws, buying a house is still Caveat Emptor - let the buyer beware.
For other questions and concerns, feel free to contact me at (480)203-4364 or NatashaTRealtor@gmail.com