Most homeowners facing the loss of their homes seek out any option possible to avoid foreclosure and start recovering financially. While many are able to save their homes, there are also a large number that, for whatever reason, decide that moving out and moving on is the best solution. The more distressing the foreclosure situation is and the more desperate the homeowners were to save their homes, the greater the danger of the house being damaged and stripped for every single useful item and appliance. However, many foreclosure victims would like to take certain appliances without damaging the property, and are unsure what, if anything, they can take, and what the ramifications are if they do take more appliances and items than allowed by law.
First of all, in any foreclosure situation, homeowners should work on various options for stretching out the foreclosure process for as long as possible. It might take some money and work on their part to do this, but they can get the bank to stop the sheriff sale numerous times while the foreclosure victims are working on a solution that will stop the foreclosure entirely. Even if they know they have no intention to keep the house, there is no prohibition against trying options that will likely fail, on the off chance that they will be successful, as long as working on these solutions persuades the bank to give them more time. This might involve stopping the sheriff sale, or just getting more time to move out, but homeowners should use every tactic they can to gain more time to put their own lives in order and even begin a savings plan or work on getting out of debt.
In regards to the appliances and what foreclosure victims can take from the house when they move out and what must be left, it depends on what appliances are being discussed. The general rule is that homeowners can take any personal belongings, but must leave all fixtures related to the property. Determining what a fixture is can be one of the difficult questions about moving, whether it is a foreclosure situation or not. Especially because many items in a house hold sentimental value, as well as functional value, homeowners need to carefully evaluate what might be considered personal property and what needs to stay with the house as real property.
There are a few questions homeowners should ask themselves to figure out which appliances are fixtures and which are not. First, will removing it cause damage to the property or make it unlivable ? Thus, unplugging the dryer and washing machine and moving them will probably not cause any damage. Taking out the furnace and outside air conditioner, on the other hand, may cause damage, not to mention this will make the house difficult to live in without any source of heat. The same goes for ceiling fans and light fixtures. Homeowners can also not take the antique front door or any doorknobs, as these count as fixtures. But big items like the refrigerator can be unplugged and easily moved out. The keys to the house also count as fixtures, because they are integrally related to the property, and not having keys to doors will make the house difficult to enter, and make the doorknob fixtures useless, necessitating expenditures by the new owners to change all of the locks.
Foreclosure victims also need to ask the question of what was the original intent of the item: as a permanent item or something to be moved easily? Permanent items like the furnace and sink faucets and copper pipes should stay. So should the glass in the cabinet doors. However, if the homeowners moved into the property and the previous owners left a desk in the basement or a microwave they did not take with them, the homeowners have every right to take those items, since they were probably meant to be personal property. Just the fact of being left in a property after a transfer of ownership does not automatically make the items fixtures.
The last question homeowners need to consider when moving out of a house after foreclosure is if the item is attached to the property in some way. They are free to remove bookshelves that they built on their own after purchasing kits from Wal-Mart. However, the built-in library should probably stay, as it is attached to the property and removing it would case damage and a loss of value. The grill with propane tank can be moved and is not attached, but the huge propane tank attached to the outside of the house to provide heat in winter and the hot water heater are attached firmly to the piping and integral to the functioning of the property. Thus, they must stay, along with the items that make them work, such as pipes, gauges, and other minor items used with the larger fixture.
Foreclosure victims moving on with their lives should evaluate any items they have a question about. Again, any personal property can be taken, and the new owners, the bank, and the county have no legal right to seize these. Fixtures can only be taken, but only if they are replaced with substitute items. If the homeowners would like to take the doorknobs they installed, then they can take them but should replace the knobs with cheaper versions. Another example would be to replace the new stove they just bought with an older model that they pick up for free on Craigslist. If they are buying items to use in a new house or apartment, they can purchase lower-end models now and use those to replace fixtures in the foreclosed house, while taking the higher-end models they now use and can not take from the property because removing a fixture and not replacing it is not allowed.
Leaving a house after foreclosure is often the most difficult part of the entire process. Homeowners are often disappointed that they will not be able to keep their home, and some attempt to take revenge on the bank by stripping the property of everything useful. This is not a positive action, though, and serves no lasting purpose other than lashing out at a bank that foreclosed on one’s property. But foreclosure victims do still have rights to their own property located in the house, and can take anything that is personal. Fixtures that are attached to the property and considered real property are the most likely targets of being removed from the house and causing damage. While homeowners do not have a right to remove fixtures and leave nothing in their places, they can provide substitute fixtures while taking the items that hold sentimental or financial value to them.
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