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Posts: 2
Registered: ‎12-29-2010

Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

We're getting close to closing on a short sale and the home still has a ton of stuff/junk in it. Some items definitely have value like washer/dryer, computer server rack, fish tank, etc that is not part of the sales contract.


So my question is, who owns the stuff left behind in the house once I get through settlement? The current owners are going through bankruptcy/divorce and moved out of town, so we really doubt they are going to get any of the stuff. I know they are contractually on the hook to clean out the house, but I'm pretty sure they don't really care (nothing more to lose). I'm OK with cleaning it out myself, but I just want to make sure I'm within my right to sell/trash what I please.



Redfin Senior Agent
Posts: 4
Registered: ‎01-05-2010

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

Technically you own anything that is left behind after the last paper is signed.  It is definitely common to find some items left behind but some houses have more than others.  Per the contract you can require that they get the loose odds and ends out of the house prior to closing.  Items like the washer/dryer and other appliances typically convey.  When you ratify a contract there should be a disclosure form which lists items that do and do not convey. 


Tom Lewis | Redfin Agent
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Posts: 2
Registered: ‎12-29-2010

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

Thanks for the reply.


The washer and dryer definitely do not convey (we tried getting them when we put in our first offer and their counter yanked them out). The contract does state "broom clean", but I don't see that happening either.


As I mentioned, the current owners aren't very motivated, so my hunch is they'll leave that stuff (good and bad). I just don't want anyone knocking on the door a month after closing looking to pick up their appliances. I want to be within my right to tell them to take a hike.


Thanks again for the advice.

Platinum Super Contributor
Posts: 11,328
Registered: ‎05-30-2009

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

Have your agent remind the sellers agent that they must clear out their stuff and "broom clean" the house prior to you, the new owner taking possession.  Sometimes sellers need to be told exactly what is expected of them.


I hate the term "broom clean" because its vague.  I've heard realtors say floors swept, counters wiped and vacuumed lightly.  The last home we sold I told the buyers that I was paying for 3 hours of housecleaning  after we moved and if they wanted to specify what they wanted done they could contact the house cleaner.  I didn't have to worry about cleaning after the moving van left (we had a 100+ mile drive to our new home) and the buyers got a clean house.





Posts: 39
Registered: ‎08-03-2007

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

As stated prior, you own everything left behind unless you have some special agreement with the seller.


When buying, I usually ask for the seller to have the carpets professionally cleaned prior to our move (and during day of settlement).  This allowed us to learn that a seller had lied about pets in the house (the carpet and pads were drenched with pet urine).  She had used air neutralizes and the stains were dry but once they were wet again...


Go to one of those take your junk services and get quotes, print them out.  Take them to closing.  When you do your pre-closing walk through, you can note what is left and then present the junk moving quote to the seller's representative.  They should pay you or credit you at the table.  Don't let them "promise" to pay you later.  It will never happen.


Good News is that you may get some usable free stuff.  It's all yours!  Grats on the new place!



New Visitor
Posts: 1
Registered: ‎12-27-2012

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in TX)?

Regular Visitor
Posts: 6
Registered: ‎11-24-2010

Re: Who owns the items left behind in a house after closing (in VA)?

[ Edited ]

I'm not a lawyer, but here are my comments anyway.


"Abandoned" property is yours.   Misplaced, lost or leftover property is not yours.   Give notice to the "sellers" with a time limit - -  they are going through a tough time.  Otherwise, you may be a "bailee" of THEIR property with a duty to prevent damage.


If they don't respond (after good notice), I think you can consider it abandoned property.  Worse case, if they claim it later, you turn over the property if you have it or money if you sell.  If it cost you to haul it away, consider it an expense of buying a foreclosure and suck it up.


There are many international cases of US GI's stealing valuable objects at the end of WWII, and the rightful owners (countries or museums) successfully got them back from 2-3 generations removed after the owners became aware of who had custody (after court action).


If you find a diamond on the floor after you moved in, it's not yours under the law as it would likely be considered misplaced or lost property.  As the finder, you have superior rights to it EXCEPT for the true owner (the law also distinguishes between where you find property --  on someone else's pemises, the premises owner has superior rights to it over the finder, but not superior to the owner - -  this is from business law class from my freshman college year). 


Give notice, and at least you should be free of legal hassles.