Is the property that was left behind after Close of Escrow mine?

Real Estate Agent with Visionary Properties

Is the property that was left behind after Close of Escrow mine?

I was sitting in a class yesterday and the question came up. "Is the property that was left behind after close of escrow mine?"  Now many times the answer would be "who cares".  An old can of paint, broken toys, a chair that was ready for the dump.  Take it please!  In this case, however, it was a bit different.  We talked about the possibility that the former occupant left behind remnants of an Estate Sale.  Maybe Grandma's old chair from the WWII era.  One that Antiques Road Show would shock you at the value.  What happens now?

Surprisingly, the group, which was composed of about 20 Realtors, all had different responses.  You see, the thought process is, you left it, you didn't want it, so now it is "mine"!  This happens more times that you can imagine.  After all, who wants to pay movers to take the old 300lb safe to my new house.  Just leave it.  Let the new owners deal with it.  How about in a Short Sale, when the owners vacate in a hurry for fear that they will get a knock on the door in the middle of the night telling them they have to leave?  There are many reasons people leave stuff behind in the basement, rooms or forgotten attic.  What do you do?  Is the property that was left behind after Close of Escrow mine?

Here is the answer.  Talk to your Arizona Realtor.  They will want to send the sellers' Realtor a three day cure notice.  In the meantime, you should take inventory and take pictures of the items.  Store them safely!  If after the three day cure notice the items are not removed, you have the right to the damages suffered which include removal of the items and storage.  Are they yours after that?  That depends...  A court will decide.  In many cases you will have to return them.  This is probably a good thing, since the odds of the chair or table they left being a true treasure, is really slim and none.  

Good luck in your knew home, and finally, don't forget that last minute walk through!

Comments (50)

Chris Jenkins-Sarasota Realtor
HomeSmart - Sarasota, FL
"Expect Success"

All I've ever encountered is trash too... a few times a whole lot of trash.  I often write a special stipulation into  contracts: "property to be clean and free of personal property and debris prior to closing".  Then, a day-before walk-through to eyeball the condition/status.  I've gone to a closing before with an amendment charging the sellers $XXX to clean out "leftovers" that were to be removed, per contract.

Sep 24, 2012 11:12 PM
Rob Arnold
Sand Dollar Realty Group, Inc. - Altamonte Springs, FL
Metro Orlando Full Service - Investor Friendly & F

Many times if they prior occupant was the owner, you would have do to an "ejectment" lawsuit to throw out their stuff.  Much more expensive than a tenant eviction.  Whenever a seller leaves behind extra "stuff" after a walk through, always get the title company to prepare a bill of sale conveying all that stuff.  That way the new buyer should be off the hook.

Sep 24, 2012 11:13 PM
Andrea Curtis United Country Premier Properties Certified Military Relocation Professional
United CountryPremier Properties - Harker Heights, TX

I have in the past contacted the listing Realtor about a refridgerator or washer and dryers left behind.  The next call I get from them is they decided to just leave it for the buyer, they are going to buy new for the new home.  Sometimes it can turn out well...say for first time young homebuyers who don't have these things but sometimes it is the new homebuyers putting an ad in craigslist

Sep 24, 2012 11:39 PM
Kathy Fuhriman
Bear River Valley Realty - Tremonton, UT

Utah contracts say that upon delivering possession to the new owner the property will be broom clean and free of debris and personal belongings. My buyers closed on a short sale house that had numerous items of personal property including furniture that may have belonged to the owner or to a recent tenant. The listing agent had a clause in the contract that removed the condition that the owner must clean the property out although to protect my buyers from any questions later on I insisted that the seller sign a document that said all remaining personal property was abandoned and the buyers had the right to dispose of as they see fit.

Sep 24, 2012 11:54 PM
Brad Baylor
ERA Coup Agency - Milton, PA

Sam - If I were asked that question, I'd have to say that falls under the category of "outside my area of expertise," and tell the clients to speak with their attorney.  I heard something on a tv show one time... "My name is Wes, and I ain't in that mess."  Seems kind of appropriate in this instance.

Sep 25, 2012 12:03 AM
Sylvie Stuart
Realty One Group Mountain Desert 928-600-2765 - Flagstaff, AZ
Home Buying, Home Selling and Investment - Flagsta

Great advice at the end and a really good way to handle it which covers you more than just making an assumption.

Sep 25, 2012 12:56 AM
Terry McCarley
Coastal Real Estate - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL

Interesting topic you brought up here.  I have had numerous properties that closed where the seller left lots of things from furniture to pool tables.  This has usually happened with short sales and when I speak to the seller they tell me to do whatever I want with it because they don't want it.  I have started having the language of what happens to personal items left in the property covered in the contract stating the items left hold no value and have been left for the convenience of the seller.

Sep 25, 2012 12:57 AM
Muriel Lawty
Keller Williams Downtown Seattle - Seattle, WA

In Washington state, our "form 22D" has a clause we can check or not, that states that property left behind goes to the buyer.  It is good to have this means to clarify this question.

Sep 25, 2012 01:06 AM
Rafi Footerman
Mid Jersey Inspections - Edison, NJ
Home Inspector, Mold Inspector, Radon and More!

A local attorney had clients that didn't do the walkthrough.  After closing, they went to the house and found a dead body.  Now that's a leave behind!

Sep 25, 2012 01:17 AM
Kimo Jarrett
WikiWiki Realty - Huntington Beach, CA
Pro Lifestyle Solutions

Is that a reason NOT to buy a property in Arizona?

Sep 25, 2012 01:24 AM
Carol Lynn Johnson
Re/Max Elite Realty - Franklin, NC
Residential Specialist

Love it....happens all the time.  Of course, almost always what is left has no value - but then one man's junk......

Sep 25, 2012 02:02 AM
Bob Miller
Keller Williams Cornerstone Realty - Ocala, FL
The Ocala Dream Team

Hi Sam, we never had that happen, but appreciate the info!

Sep 25, 2012 02:26 AM
Scott LaMantia, GRI
McColly Real Estate - Portage, IN

Very interesting Sam. It's never been an issue for me, but, I'm going to follow up to see what the great state of Indiana has to say about it. I have always thought if it was there after close, it belonged to the new owners.

Sep 25, 2012 02:32 AM
Dale Cosack
BHHS Fox & Roach Realtors - Newtown - Newtown, PA
Newtopias: The Cosack Team

Interesting.  Only ever had junk to worry about.

Sep 25, 2012 02:39 AM
Tina D Saporito, Your Dedicated Palm Desert, CA Realtor Since 2005
Ronald Christopher & Associates. Proudly serving Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio, Rancho Mirage, & Palm Springs. - Palm Desert, CA
Call (760)799-8460.

You bring up an interesting topic, one I haven't really ever had to deal with. Now I'm curious what the procedure would be in CA. Thanks for the thought!

Sep 25, 2012 03:49 AM
Sharon Parisi
United Real Estate Dallas - Dallas, TX
Dallas Homes

Sam, this is an interesting post.  If the Buyers had done a final walk through, they could have requested that the final items be removed from the property before closing.  Just saying-

Sep 25, 2012 04:35 AM
Donna Harris
Donna Homes, powered by JPAR - - Austin, TX
Realtor,Mediator,Ombudsman,Property Tax Arbitrator

I've always said the saying "possession is 9/10th of the law. If it's left behind, it's the buyer's now.

I once had a seller leave a bunch of stuff in the house and the buyer's agent called complaining. I asked what was left and she started naming off a lot of nice things. I said, "Have you heard of Craigslist? Your buyer could probably pocket over $1000 from the seller's stuff. Go sell it, it's theirs." They did and made over $2k.

Sep 25, 2012 05:46 AM
Bob Crane
Woodland Management Service / Woodland Real Estate, EXP - Stevens Point, WI
Forestland Experts! 715-204-9671

We generally just put it in the garage for a while just in case they come back for it, if they dont come back by the next time we clean the garage the stuff is gone.

Sep 25, 2012 06:28 AM
Georgie Hunter R(S) 58089
Hawai'i Life Real Estate Brokers - Haiku, HI
Maui Real Estate sales and lifestyle info

Well now I'll have to check my state laws too, as I just figured it was unwanted stuff.  Live and learn.

Sep 25, 2012 06:39 AM
Valerie Tourangeau
Keller Williams Realty East Valley - Chandler, AZ
Your Healthy Home Realtor

i had this happen. The seller was a realtor and decided he was not going to let us have the garage door remote after close of escrow because he wanted to get the items he had in the garage.  He said he was busy and didn't know when he was going to pick them up.  I spoke to my broker (in AZ) and was shocked to find out that the items in the garage still belonged to the seller. Of course he couldn't just keep the keys and show up at a future undetermined time to get his stuff because that would be trespassing.  We finally came to an understanding but it was my first close and I was completely blindsided.  From now on if the home is not empty I will put some verbage that what is in the house at COE stays (unless it's 10-50 gallo drums of oil but that's another story).

Oct 01, 2012 08:35 AM