Legal Q&A: do I have to clear my house out completely before I hand over the keys to the new owners?

Question: I am downsizing. Completion is due in three weeks. I have lots of stuff in my garage and outbuildings which I do not want and which won’t fit into my new place: lawnmowers, firewood, strimmers, the lot. Can I leave it all on completion for the new buyers and if they don’t want it, then they can just get rid of it?

Answer: A contract for the sale of a residential property provides in general for vacant possession on completion unless the property is subject to a tenancy.

So on completion the property should be unoccupied and empty of all contents apart from any the parties to the contract have agreed can remain.

When conveyancing started your solicitor should have asked you to fill in a Property Information Form.

You would have been asked to confirm all rubbish would be removed, including from the loft, garden, outbuildings, garages and sheds, and the property would be left clean and tidy. Check your answers.

You may have offered these items to the buyers for free provided they take responsibility for disposing of anything they don’t want.

It is not too late to make such an offer now through your solicitor. If your buyers don’t want your items, you must ensure the whole property is empty on completion. 

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. Questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a solicitor specialising in residential property.

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