What if a seller refuses to give you possession after closing?

When you make an offer on a home, you imagine moving in and enjoying family life in that property. Few people imagine pitfalls and complications on their way to the quiet enjoyment of their new home, but issues arrive in some transactions.

Perhaps the worst-case scenario for a home buyer is one where they are ready to take possession on the date in their offer, only to learn that the seller has not cleared their possessions out of the home and may have little intention of doing so in the near future.

If you find yourself in this untenable situation and the seller refuses to leave when you ask or even hand over the keys, you may have no choice but to take legal steps to enforce your right to the property you already purchased. 

Verify the possession date and any fees you can assess the seller

Sometimes, discrepancies in expectations and gaps in communication can lead to the buyer expecting the home to be vacant by one day but the seller expecting to move out by a different, later date. The first thing you need to do before you attempt to take any other action is to review your closing documents and confirm what your date of possession actually is.

Additionally, look at nearby clauses in your documents, as it is standard practice to include a daily charge in the real estate contract for a seller who does not vacate the premises by the possession date. You can bring a claim against the seller for that amount for each day past the date of possession that they don’t vacate your home.

In extreme cases, you might have to evict the former owner

Getting served with a legal letter notifying them that they owe a significant amount of rent due to their failure to leave the property can sometimes be enough to motivate a seller to move out, even if they can’t move to their next home yet.

Unfortunately, some people will just dig in their heels and refuse to go. In that situation, you may have to go to the courts, provide evidence of your ownership of the property and initiate eviction proceedings in order to remove the seller and their property from your home.

Most real estate transactions go smoothly, but when issues arise, they can cause extreme hardship and financial issues. The sooner you take action against a seller who won’t leave your home, the less impact their behavior will have on your life.