On the day of settlement of a house sale in Scotland, an exchange is made between the purchaser and the seller.
The purchaser pays the price for the house and the seller releases a key.
This process is done between the solicitors who will inform their respective clients as to when the price has been received and the keys have been authorised for release.
On the day of settlement, the seller will ideally have completed the removal of their furniture and possessions by late morning/midday.
The seller must give the purchaser “vacant possession” of the property.
What does vacant possession mean?
There are 2 important elements to this.
Firstly, from the buyer’s perspective, there should be no one still living in the property when you arrive!
You should not, for example, arrive at the property to find that a tenant lives there, unless this has been agreed between the parties (e.g. you may be buying the property as a ‘buy-to-let’ and allowing the current tenant to remain in the property).
Secondly, from the seller’s perspective, as far as possible, the property should be free of all moveable items that are not included in the sale.
This means items such as your furniture, or other free-standing items and possessions.
Generally speaking, it is a good idea to agree with the purchaser during the course of the transaction as to any items that you are planning to leave at the property.
You may have garden furniture, tools, freestanding kitchen appliances or other items that you think would be helpful to leave the purchaser or you may wish to sell some moveable items to the purchaser for an agreed price.
It is okay to agree this between you and the purchaser – and the money paid for these items does not form part of the larger, ‘main’ purchase price.
But you should not leave the property full of items that you don’t want without agreeing with the purchaser in advance.
It may be that the purchaser doesn’t want these items either (!).
In addition, you risk a potential claim by the purchaser for the cost of having the house cleared or bulky items removed.
Also, don’t forget to clear out your fridge and freezer.
Common complaints by purchasers after settlement are that items such as fish fingers and frozen chips have been left in the freezer. Whilst some would call this a free meal, others are not so keen.
A good rule of thumb is that all free-standing moveable items should be removed (unless otherwise agreed).
And all items that are fixtures or fittings should remain in the property.
As the old saying goes, “if it’s not nailed down…”!
How we can help
Hopefully, you now understand a bit more about ‘vacant possession’ and why failure to give or get vacant possession on settlement of a house purchase and sale is probably not a good thing.
We hope you found this artcile helpful. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries at all. Initial enquiries are at no cost and without obligation to proceed further with us. That’s how it works whether you’re looking for clarification of anything that you’ve not understood from this article or you’re wanting to ask about any of our wider house buying and selling services.