Q: When we made the offer on a house, it had a new pellet stove. The sellers said that they were taking it with them. We said that it is attached and that we wanted it. Their real estate agent said that the stove was excluded in the listing. When we went for the final walk-through, the stove was not in the house. Do we have any rights as buyers?
A: It depends on what your purchase and sale agreement provides. If your agreement provides for the stove to be conveyed to you as part of the purchase of the home, you have a right to object and not close on the purchase until the situation is resolved.
While you clearly stated that you thought the stove was part of the house, there was a verbal disagreement with the sellers as to whether that appliance was included. While the listing agreement may have excluded the stove, you need to see what you and the seller agreed to in the purchase and sale agreement. Did the contract to purchase exclude the stove? If the listing sheet specifically excluded the stove or if the contract specifically excludes the stove, you may be out of luck. If there is nothing in the purchase and sale agreement relating to the stove, you may have a better negotiating position depending on the laws in the state in which the home is located.
You may wish to consult with an attorney about your situation. I’m not a real estate attorney, but my understanding is that the seller is entitled to remove his personal property from the home, but generally fixtures of the home must remain. To avoid ambiguity, some purchase and sale agreements specifically state that the heating and cooling systems of the home are fixtures that must remain in the home after closing. Some contracts go so far as to provide that plantings in the garden are considered part of the home and must remain.
In some parts of the country the custom is for some items of personal property to remain with the home. These items include the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and ovens. In other parts of the country, these items are commonly removed by the seller when they leave. If the home you’re buying has a heating system and the pellet stove was not the primary source of heat for the home, the pellet stove could be considered an item of personal property that the seller could have removed.
You need to determine what your contract stated and whether the seller had the right to remove the stove. If they didn’t have the right to remove the stove, you have the right to request that they pay for the installation of another pellet stove. However, if the contract allowed the removal, you’ll have to accept that the sellers were within their rights to take it.
March 26, 2009