Often bitter after losing their home to foreclosure, many homeowners look for ways to “get even” with a bank or lender. And one of the most common tactics is to strip a house of anything they can. Literally.
While homeowners are fully within their rights to remove any personal property from a home following foreclosure, there are rules that limit which items are fair game. The washer and dryer? Fine. The refrigerator? It’s yours. But the furnace? Not so fast.
Homeowners would be wise to avoid further complications and legal hassles by pushing aside their frustrations and understanding which items are acceptable to remove following a foreclosure, and which are not. The rules are not always clear, so some common sense is required. Perhaps the best rule to follow – short of getting advice from a legal professional – is this: when in doubt, leave it.
Everything but the kitchen sink
So, what separates items that you can remove, from those which should stay? Start with making this distinction: would you define the item as a personal belonging or a fixture? Personal belongings, regardless of their size, are yours to take. As a result, a refrigerator is OK. Fixtures, on the other hand, are more difficult to distinguish, and get be a little trickier to define. To help, ask yourself a few questions. Will removing the item cause damage? Will removing the item make the property unlivable? Is the item connected to the property structurally? Was the item originally intended to be permanent or temporary?
Some common examples of items that should be left with the house include the furnace, the outdoor air conditioning unit, built-in book shelves, the toilets, doorknob fixtures and copper pipes. Remember, however, that in some cases, it is acceptable to remove an item and replace with a less expensive substitute. If, for example, you had installed a pricy brass doorknob on the front door, you can remove it and replace it with a cheaper alternative, as long as the result is a functioning entryway.
Above all, apply common sense. Use the same standards that you would to any home sale, and you could be saving yourself more headaches down the road. And no, in case you’re still not sure, you cannot take the kitchen sink.
Justin Velthoen of Toucan Homes is a real estate professional. The content presented above should not be considered tax or legal advice, and is intended only to assist homeowners in finding general answers to their questions. Toucan Homes recommends that homeowners seek professional tax and legal advice from a licensed lawyer and/or CPA.