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Can the seller remove fixtures from your new home?

Author: What happens when on the day you move in to your new home, the happy experience sours when you discover the rose bush from the front yard has been removed, the mirror in the bathroom is gone and the dishwasher has been taken from the kitchen?

These things were there when you inspected the property and you assumed they would be staying with the house as part of your purchase. So, where do you stand legally in this situation?

What are your legal rights?
Thankfully, the law is on your side but it comes down to proper process. It’s about making sure the responsibilities of the seller have been met and that all the paperwork has been done thoroughly 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.

Usually, anything deemed to be a fixture will stay. This generally includes things that are nailed, screwed or otherwise fixed such as;

◦floor coverings
◦towel racks
◦television aerials
◦light fittings
◦ceiling fans.

But it also includes things like plants, paving slabs and garden sheds.

We recommend sellers fill out one of our disclosure statement forms, which are provided to agents. They are not compulsory under Western Australian law, but they do give the agent a written record of exactly what is being sold and what, if anything, is being removed by the previous owner.

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

In our standard 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 is properly declared to any potential purchasers.

You 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 misunderstanding and everyone should be happy.

Often if 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.

If you find this isn’t the case, that both you and the agent were not properly advised and the seller is being difficult, then you are entitled to take the matter to the Local Court to seek compensation for missing items.

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