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Should it stay or should it go? It's important to understand the rules on fixtures and fittings when moving home, property law solicitor Claire Simmons explains.

Byline: Claire Simmons

IN the current market, buyers and sellers more actively barter over the fixtures and fittings as a way of negotiating the final price.

Buyers can be left disappointed when sellers move out and take items with them without prior agreement, which can lead to court cases costing more to resolve than the actual value of the disputed items. It is, therefore, important for sellers to know exactly what they are allowed to take to avoid any misunderstanding with the buyers over fixtures and fittings.

The first thing to remember as a buyer is that you shouldn't rely on what you see when you go to view a property, or rely upon what is written in the estate agent's details.

Your solicitor should ask the seller to complete a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form setting out items which will be left and which will be taken so it then forms part of the contract.

Most important of all, you should ensure that you read the form carefully and if you are unsure, ask your solicitor. Try to remain on good terms with the seller so you are less likely to find yourself moving into a house without light fittings!

In the absence of a Fixtures, Fittings and Contents Form or any other agreements, the legal position states that if something is fixed down, it must stay. If it can be picked up it can be taken.

Fixtures are considered to be items which cannot be removed because doing so would cause damage to the property. They can include built-in wardrobes, bathroom suites, central heating systems and fireplaces! Fittings are items which can be removed and include pictures and mirrors, rugs, curtains, plant pots, hanging baskets and lampshades.

However, as long as the seller has made it clear and agreed beforehand which items will be taken and which will be left they can take whatever they want. However, if they take a built-in kitchen utensil rack without prior agreement they can be sued for the cost of replacing it!

As with most other aspects of moving house, the expectations of the seller and buyer can vary substantially, leading to misunderstandings and frustration.

Buyers sometimes find their new home filled with someone else's unwanted furniture and sometimes even a fridge full of mouldy food. This can be costly to buyers who have to pay to have the property cleared. Legally speaking, sellers who do this are in breach of their contract with their buyer by not giving the buyer vacant possession of the property and can be liable to reimburse the buyer for their costs.

If you are selling your property, you should therefore always be as clear and precise as you can be on the Fixtures Fittings and Contents Form, and you should only take away fittings if you have previously agreed this with your buyer. Also, always take away your rubbish or you could find yourself footing the bill for its removal.

Claire Simmons is a solicitor in the property department at Ward Hadaway Law Firm in Newcastle. She can be contacted at claire.simmons@wardhadaway.com or on (0191) 204 4183.
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 3, 2009
Words:524
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