Q: I recently bought a home in Blaine, Washington. On the front page of the sale agreement it was stated that the electric free standing fireplace was to be left in the house as part of the purchase agreement.
When I got possession of the home the fireplace was gone. The seller says she sold it and would give me 100 dollars instead. I have priced similar pieces and they range from $1,200 dollars and up. The seller has now moved to Canada.
Whose responsibility is it to put things right? Mine or the seller’s agent?
A: It looks to me like the seller should be responsible for making sure you’re made whole. But let’s back up a moment.
You should have done a final walk-through of the property just before you closed on it and after the sellers had already moved out. If you had done this final walk-through you would have noticed that the fireplace was missing before you paid for the property.
Your strongest position was while you were still holding the money. You could have demanded that the seller return the fireplace before you closed on the property. If you took possession after closing, you could have held back money in an escrow account with the title company or escrow closing agent that would have ensured the seller did no harm to the property.
Now let’s move into the present. Obviously, if the contract stated specifically that the fireplace was to remain, and the seller took it anyway, then you probably have the right to sue the seller to return the fireplace.
If the fireplace costs $1,200 to replace, an offer of $100 is ludicrous. You should provide the seller with a photo of a similar fireplace along with the price and demand in writing that he pay up.
If he doesn’t, you can pursue the seller in small claims court. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you’ll get anywhere, particularly since the seller now lives in another country.
You should talk to an attorney about your legal options and make a decision on how to pursue the seller. Next time, remember to walk-through the property before you close.
Aug. 1, 2004.