Storms, lightening strikes, hail, flooding and fire are just some of things that can hit a property after the sale but before the closing. Who’s responsible for repairs when the property is damaged?
It’s a good question and in most cases (notice: there are always exceptions) the seller is responsible for maintaining the property until the closing. In fact the typical purchase contract clearly states “..Seller further agrees that until physical possession is delivered to the Buyer, the Real Estate will be in as good repair as it is presently, except for normal wear and casualty damage from perils insurable under standard all risk policy.”
So until the seller actually vacates the property taking care of things in and around the house remains their responsibility…..assuming the buyers actually get the keys at closing Problems pop up when contract negotiations allow the sellers to extend their stay in the property and something happens during the “transitional time frame”.
At closing buyers have to provide proof of home insurance coverage because lenders want to be protected. In short, the buyer has purchased insurance covering the structure/land even though the sellers may be staying the house for a few days after closing. Prior to closing, sellers, who aren’t moving out immediately, need to contact their insurance company in order to secure adequate coverage for their possessions something we refer to as “renter’s insurance”.
In normal circumstances nothing ever happens and the sellers move out on or a few days after closing and everybody is happy. But this is Cincinnati and if you wait a minute the weather changes and the chance for storm damage increases exponentially. Picture this- buyer and seller shook hands at the closing table 2 days ago. The seller is moving out on the 3rd day after closing and the house was struck by lightning…. and to add to the drama the neighbor’s tree fell over onto your roof. The lightning strike blew out all the major electric appliances, including your fridge, dishwasher and hot tub. The seller’s tv, surround sound, washer,dryer and all their computers were also damaged.
Don’t laugh because this actually happened. In this case, the buyer’s home owner’s insurance covered damage to house and their appliances from lightning strike. “Renters insurance” covered the seller’s gear. Falling trees are in a category all their own- and every home owner should understand-if a tree lands on your property…it’s your problem.
Sellers need to understand that the any damage that happens between accepting a contract and closing is their responsibility. When purchasing insurance buyers need to have a discussion with the vendor about tree, wind and water damage because repairs are often expensive and not always covered by standard home owner’s policies.
The best way to avoid misunderstandings about buyer and seller responsibility is to discuss your concerns with your agent. When it doubt spell out the details in writing and get signatures- it’s much easier to have “touchy” issues answered before Cincinnati weather or some other unknown strikes.