Q: One of our acquaintances yesterday mentioned that they were under the impression that when you close on a house technically everything inside the home technically becomes yours as well. Is that actually how things technically work by default? You close and everything inside the home changes ownership?
A: With regard to your question: if the Seller moves out and delivers possession and they left behind a couch or a barbeque or something like that, then yes, it could become yours. I say could, because obviously a Seller could have left a car in the garage or something else by accident and that wouldn't necessarily "make" it yours just because it was there.
YOU would claim that it is yours because they were to have removed all their personal belongings from the home
THEIR attorney would claim that they did not remove all their personal belongings from the home as per the contract and that your only remedy or complaint is on the breach of that line in the contract.
Another argument is that the contract specifically "includes" items of personal property that are to be conveyed by Bill of Sale to the Buyer. (Section 1.1 "Included Items"). Therefore, articles simply left behind by mistake (say a wedding ring or something) wouldn't necessarily automatically become your property simply because they were left in the home.
In reality, I personally have acquired a barbeque, a workbench, and numerous other things that were left behind by the Seller when I purchased my first home. Other clients have "inherited" other items that have been left behind when a Seller moved. In most of these cases the Seller did not want to take the items with them (for whatever reason) and left them for the Buyer. Not always has there been a bill of sale.
I have also seen where a Seller has left behind some personal property that the Buyer did not want. For that same reason, I have often used the "Excluded Items" section of the contract to specifically exclude something from the Sale, thereby requiring that the Seller remove it from the property. (Just last month we excluded a snowmobile from a sale for that reason. It was obviously not working and the home was a "flip". Fearing the Seller would leave it behind for us to deal with, we excluded it from the sale. It wasn't being offered as part of the sale, but as your friend suggested, it could become yours at possession and then you would have to dispose of it.
At any rate, the simple answer is YES and NO. If the Seller has not yet delivered physical possession to you (which they could also breach) their property doesn't automatically become yours just because the home has closed. Once physical possession has been delivered, in most cases it is assumed and presumed by all parties that anything left in the home is now the Buyer's responsibility (or property).
Still, if you have any particular items in mind, it is best to get them included in writing and conveyed by a Bill of Sale. Going that route saves the ambiguity and makes lawsuits and small claims much less likely.
The confusion comes because many people don't look at Settlement, Closing and Possession as 3 distinct things. They use the terms interchangeably and they are not interchangeable. They are 3 distinct events which only occur when certain requirements are met.
So your friend is both right and wrong depending on what they think they mean. If they think Closing means that you have taken Possession, then they are more right than if they think that Closing only means that the property has recorded as yours.
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