Legal Q&A: Our moving-in experience was rubbish

We bought a house recently and the sellers were late moving out and left behind some furniture and rubbish. What can we do?
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Question: We bought a house recently and the sellers left several big bits of furniture, including a sofa and the dishwasher - even though we said in writing via solicitors that we didn't want them.
There is also a large amount of rubbish, paints and chemicals, children's toys and garden items. We were also unhappy that we couldn't get into the place until the evening, 10 hours after completion, as they were still moving out. What is our best course of action? We have no direct contact details for them.
Answer: Usually a contract for the sale of a property provides for vacant possession upon completion, meaning it will be both unoccupied and empty of contents then, apart from any items the parties agreed should be left.
The contract should include a condition stating the time by which the sale should be completed - usually 2pm unless this has been varied. Before exchange of contracts you should have been provided with a Property Information Form completed by the seller in which they should have confirmed that all rubbish would be removed and that the place would be left clean and tidy.
Talk to your solicitor. They should contact the sellers' solicitors and request that the sellers remove the items left behind forthwith and explain that if they fail to do so, you will arrange disposal of the items and will look to their clients to pay. You could seek compensation for any extra removal costs resulting from the difficulties you experienced accessing the property.
If the sellers refuse to help, court action is an option but it is costly and you will need their address. Note that their solicitors should not divulge their clients' new address without their permission. Talk to the selling agents to see if they can influence the vendors in a positive way.
If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here.

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