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Homeowning quandary: The Bad Beginning

A few days ago we signed closing papers for a house. Yesterday our escrow people confirmed everything was complete and the place was ours. Last night we drove over there, hoping to get a hold of our realtor and get the keys and walk into Our New House, just to look around and start dreaming of paint colors.

Imagine our confusion to find the lights were still on, the doors were open, an old truck was backed into the driveway, and one of the previous owners was directing some guys carrying stuff out of the house. Yes: They were still moving out. They were nowhere near done. It looked, in fact, as if they had just gotten started. We made some small talk and introductions with the woman, who was cheerful and seemingly oblivious as to their obligation to actually be out of the house by this time.

Being nice and non-confrontational people, we excused ourselves and wandered aside and called our realtor, who was not amused with the other team. He told us to get a key from the old owners, and figure out what was going on; and meanwhile he would leave a seriously unpleasant message for their realtor (who apparently neglected to make his clients understand that they actually had to, you know, vacate the premises by Friday). We got a key from Mrs. Oblivious, and decided, what the hell; we weren't going to get much done Friday night anyway, so we would come back Saturday morning. They swore they'd have the house cleared out by then, and would just have the outbuilding to clean out--which they would do over the weekend. Okay, fine, if you must. The house is the important part anyway.

So this morning we drive back over there. No one is around this time (they said they had to work Saturday), but:
a) The key Mrs. Oblivious gave us does not work, and
b) A look into the windows, and around the yard, indicates pretty clearly that they are not done clearing out. In fact, their stuff is still everywhere.

Today, we are not so inclined to be nice. This isn't just "kind of" our house. We aren't in a legal twilight period where it's "partially" ours and partially theirs. No. This is completely, legally, totally our house now--and we can't get into it and their stuff is all over the place. Our realtor has been unreachable today, but I'm sure he will have some choice words for them and their team, which I can't wait to hear. In the meantime I ask you...

Poll #388622 Homeowning quandary: The Bad Beginning

What should we do?

Get all the locks changed, without informing the previous owners
Have someone move all their stuff out and take it to their new place, and send them the bill
Charge them rent for the days they still have stuff in the house
Hack their realtor's website so it displays porn with his face on it
Obtain mob connections and apply some real "pressure"
Shrug it off, wait it out, and go do something fun - what's one weekend, right?

Other suggestions welcome in the comments. There's actually even more to the unprofessionalism and tackiness of these previous owners, but I'm too polite and disgusted to go into right now.



( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:41 am (UTC)
What a pain! Yes, if we had driven up in a U-Haul, and had to actually get out of this (our rental) house anytime soon, we'd be pretty furious. As it is, we're flexible--but still, paying for two places at once isn't something we want to do for any extended period of time. So stupid.
(Deleted comment)
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:54 am (UTC)
Well, yes--one of the first things our realtor said when we called was, "It's your house. You could technically lock the doors and take everything that's in there." But, as we all agreed, it isn't the kind of stuff we want anyhow. I considered as a poll option, "Put all their stuff on ebay," but jeez, what a pain that would be. :)
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:24 am (UTC)
What a pain in the ass for you!
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Although options 4 and 5 are tempting and options 1 and 2 seem righteous, I would go with Door # 3...which is your legal right. You own the place, they are residing in it, they owe you rent. Plus compensation for your incovenience.

Your realtor should be the one to do the dirty work; that's part of his job. And if, after they do get their stuff out, the place is a mess, hire a cleaning service and send the bill to THEIR realtor. He is obviously not doing HIS job.

DO NOT, by any means, go with the last option. Possession is 9/10 and all that. Get in there ASAP and make it as uncomfortable and inconvenient as possible for the previous owners to stay.
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:50 am (UTC)
Re: What a pain in the ass for you!
Rent was indeed the most tempting option to me at first. Then I wondered: would that put us in a landlord/tenant position? If so, that isn't quite what I want, because tenants have certain rights and things they can legally expect from their landlords, and, naturally, we owe them nothing at all beyond the purchase price. Such rights probably wouldn't apply, since we signed no agreements with each other--but by the same token, it could be hard to make them pay it without taking it to small claims court. (Which I really don't want to do.)

But, yes: our realtor has been very good so far and should be able to work something for us. This is all so stupid. Ugh.

Normally-mild-mannered husband is now ranting about going over there tomorrow, while the owners are around clearing out their crap, and ripping up the carpet and throwing the old furnishings out before their eyes. "Here, take this with you--it's horrible. And that paint is ugly. Who chose that? You?" :)
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:28 am (UTC)
wow, whee, le sigh.
i'm about to be in similar peril. my mate and i are pre-approved and are currenly house shopping. i *love* the ones that are already vacant. our realtor says "ah, lock box," when i'm talking over a listing with him on the phone and i internally breathe a HUGE sigh of relief.

our former landlord/best friend since high school bought a house in this area (northern california) and we moved up (from so cal) with them to take a room for a couple months and help with initial mortgage expenses. one crisis i saw her go through was that the house had been occupied (vacated just in time though) with a sublet of the in-law space. when she went to put the utilities into her name she was confronted with ENORMOUS outstanding bills. so they'd had all the lights on for days when showing the place, probably left them on to show to best advantage and all that. it was a huge hassle for her, and took repeated calls to both realtors and utility co's and everything else to settle.

*please* take contact information for the former owners, and their realtor, and check on the utilities ASAP so you don't get stung like this!

i send you random good vibes and good luck!
{really random, i stumbled on your entry via the BPAL/friends page}
Nov. 21st, 2004 02:52 am (UTC)
Re: wow, whee, le sigh.
Hee - hello to another BPAL enthusiast!

Yes, now we're wondering about the dang utilities. They were supposedly switched over to our name on closing day--but if they're still going in and out and leaving stuff on, then are we responsible for that? Better freakin' not be. Will repeat all that to our realtor when we dump it in his lap to take care of it. Poor fellow...not really his fault. :)

Thanks for the vibes!
Nov. 21st, 2004 04:22 am (UTC)

Firstly, glad to hear that you are a homeowner...:) Congrats...just in time for the holidays.

Secondly, irregardless of the seeming oblivion of the previous owners, I'd put cash on the barrel that they are well aware of the fact that their happy a***s should have been out, previously. Possibly counting on your good nature, to let them take their time.

I agree, your realtor needs to be the one to coordinate this mess, and with what little I do know of you, I know you'll be documenting everything, to be reimbursed, at a later date.

They are definitely infringing and they damn well know it. They should have been busting tail to take care of their obligation to be out of that house. I say hit 'em where it hurts...in the pocketbook.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:09 pm (UTC)
Possibly counting on your good nature, to let them take their time.

Yeah, that seems about the size of it. That, and your basic human incompetence and flakiness. We shall keep applying pressure, and, tonight most likely changing locks. ;)
Nov. 21st, 2004 06:48 pm (UTC)
What a mess! I suddenly appreciate my cousin's (snovixen71) job much more.

I read all of the comments and agree that you need to get their stuff out pronto - it is your house and they have violated a contract at this point. I would also find out what the utilities were for these violated days (as was also mentioned) and bill them. There is an off-chance that you can call the utility companies and tell them that you haven't moved in yet so not to switch the utilities, but that's a tough one with the timing and all.

I'd also bill them for cleaning the entire premises (ESPECIALLY if that was part of the contract).

If they don't pay or continue to balk, I hope that this doesn't make it to small claims. In the event that it does, I would also add inconvenience fees to the list of debts.

That sucks...
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:11 pm (UTC)
Unfortunately the contract doesn't seem to be too clear on the cleaning-out and possession portions of the deal--wherefore it sucks to be us. Heh. But we can indeed still lock them out. Unless they do something egregious, I do not have the energy for court, so they may "get away with it"--but then, we did get away with a pretty darn good price for a Seattle house. I think this is their revenge. ;)
Dec. 15th, 2004 03:02 am (UTC)
Pretty good revenge too I might say!

It's pretty near impossible to get a deal there, isn't it? I remember looking around there a time or two and just thinking how that would never happen. :(
Dec. 31st, 2004 11:15 pm (UTC)
Generally speaking, you can't get a decent-sized house, in decent condition, in a decent (i.e., non-crack-den) neighborhood within Seattle city limits for under $250,000. West Seattle is one of the last neighborhoods where you can still keep it under $300,000. This same house in Ballard (our old neighborhood) would probably have cost nearly $400,000--quite a bit out of our range! So, yeah, it's an expensive city...though it's still a damn sight more affordable than most of California. For what that's worth. :)
Nov. 22nd, 2004 06:15 am (UTC)
I say #3, but that's purely a gut instinct. I have no actual experience upon which to base this.

But please do share how it is resolved. I'm just beginning to gather info on buying as I hope to start looking (first time)next fall.

And most of all... good luck! :)
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah, this is our first one too. At this point it looks like there isn't a lot we can do except jump around and yell a little (and change the locks), since the next step up would involve small claims court. Always a joyous thing to do. My advice so far would be to make sure there's a nice clear clause in your closing documents about the date of possession, and the condition they must leave the property in. This won't matter if you're just looking at houses where people have already moved out, of course. A happier scenario in many ways.
Nov. 22nd, 2004 07:28 am (UTC)
Oh my gosh! {{{{{{{{{{{{Molly}}}}}}}}}}}}}}} I am SO sorry that this is happening, hon. I wish I knew more about these sorts of things, so I could give some advice. I am thinking of y'all and hoping that you can get this resolved *stat.*

Take care and please keep us updated --
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:15 pm (UTC)
Thankee, dear. :) Well, we have a better set of keys now, so tonight may involve changing the locks. Will have to see how much progress they've made when we get over there later.

Funny icon! Hee!
Nov. 23rd, 2004 05:10 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad to hear that, M! I've been keeping up with your posts and hoping for the best for y'all. *hugs*

Rightfangirl-powah! ;-)

PS Hee! Happy you like the icon - it was created by golden_moment. Funny, huh? :-)
Nov. 22nd, 2004 09:07 am (UTC)
That poll is a disgrace! You should be ashamed of yourself! Why on earth is there no "Burn everything they own" option... I mean really!
Nov. 22nd, 2004 11:16 pm (UTC)
As usual, you're psychic. I very nearly put "Drag out their possessions and hold a bonfire" as an option. But we're sort of near the airport now, so I didn't want to send any wrong signals to incoming planes...
Nov. 23rd, 2004 04:54 am (UTC)
I'm kind of liking an "all of the above" option just before the nice one. I'm not a patient person, and since the place is yours, that makes their stuff yours too. So whatever you do with it is legal. Including giving it to the Salvation Army (who do pickups), Goodwill (also pick stuff up), or any other charity in your area. It's kind of cool to do something nice while you are sticking it to people who have screwed you.
Nov. 23rd, 2004 08:21 pm (UTC)
Well, no, not really....
Undoubtedly it varies by state, but at least around here, you have to take "Reasonable care" with their possessions for 30 days. After which you can have a pleasant little bonfire.

As for the definition of "Reasonable care" - you can pile all the stuff in the garage. You can put it outside under a tarp as long as there's no reason to expect that a blizzard is going to be passing by anytime soon. But you can't just toss things on to the front yard, exposed to the elements and random passers-by.

And the one thing you most certainly can't do is take their stuff, any more than you can legally take possession of some random jerk's car when he suddenly decides he really likes YOUR driveway, and not his.

Don't ask me how I know this. ;-)

- Rich
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )