After much searching, you found your dream home. You secured a mortgage and set a date for the closing. Then you get the bad news: Your dream home is not empty. The previous owners are still living there. Keep calm and be patient. Possession will take longer than you planned, but your dream home will ultimately be yours.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
If you purchase a home and find out the sellers haven't moved out, you and your attorney can try to talk with them to determine a move-out date. When that doesn't work, you'll have to begin the eviction process through the court system.
Postpone the Closing
One way to determine whether the sellers are still in the home the day of closing is to schedule a walk-through. If you notice the sellers haven't moved, you and your attorney should reschedule the closing until after seller has vacated the property. Forcing the sellers to wait for the money might be the motivation necessary to get them out of the house.
Reach an Agreement
Unforeseen circumstances may have prevented the sellers from moving out. Their new home might not be ready for occupancy or they might have encountered a glitch in their own closing. Their moving van might not have shown up, leaving them stranded. If you can wait, all parties — with the advice of an attorney — should work out a plan through which the sellers can stay until an agreed-on deadline and pay you a negotiated rental fee.
Begin the Eviction Process
If all other efforts have failed, prepare to start an eviction procedure. Verify that your contract of sale spells out that the seller must provide physical possession of the property — in the form of keys to an empty house at closing — and not just the legal right to possession. You can serve the seller with a notice to quit within three days. If the seller still does not comply, your lawyer can file an eviction notice. The notice must spell out details of the problem and how it must be remedied.
From Buyer to Owner and Landlord
You, as the buyer of the property, have now become a landlord. You must notify the seller, who is technically a tenant, that he must vacate the premises within a specific period of time. Eviction processes differ by state, but generally, the buyer’s attorney files an unlawful detainer, or eviction, complaint with the court, and a judge issues an eviction order. The sheriff’s department serves the warrant on the occupant. If he does not respond, the judge orders that he must vacate the property, and if he still does not comply, the sheriff removes him and his belongings.
Rent Is Due
You are entitled to market value rent from the seller for the time he occupies the house. That compensation can be pursued in small claims court once the seller has moved out.
As a long-time newspaper reporter and staff writer, Kay Bosworth covered real estate development and business for publications in northern New Jersey. Her extensive career included serving as editor of a business education magazine for the McGraw-Hill Book Company. The Kentucky native earned a BA from Transylvania University in Lexington.