I just bought a house, and on possession day, I noticed the movable island from the kitchen, which I loved when I viewed the property, was gone. Was the seller allowed to take it with them?

The short answer is yes, the seller was allowed to take the movable island with them. A movable island is an example of an unattached good, which are movable items that are not included in the sale of a property unless agreed to, in writing, by the parties.

Unattached goods include items such as wall art, area rugs, non-built-in appliances such as microwaves, and even curtains. Unless otherwise agreed to, sellers can take movable items from the property before the buyer takes possession.

The opposite of unattached goods are attached goods. Attached goods are items that you cannot remove from a property without causing damage to the property. For example, chandeliers, built-in appliances such as dishwashers, and curtain rods and brackets are attached goods. Unless otherwise agreed to, sellers are expected to leave attached goods behind.

However, the good news for buyers is, if there is something you like in a property you are considering buying, but it’s an unattached good, all is not lost. If you want a particular unattached good included in your purchase of the property, list it as an inclusion in your offer to purchase. Now, it’s subject to negotiation between you and the seller.

The seller may agree, or they may remove it from the list of inclusions in a counter offer. It is up to the buyer and seller, with the help of their real estate representatives, to negotiate the transaction, and that includes what items are included or not.  

When it doubt, write it out. This is the best way to ensure you know what is included when you’re purchasing a property. For larger more expensive items, you may wish to include the make, model, and serial number. This may eliminate a seller’s urge to switch nice appliances, for example, with less expensive, used items.

Now, what do you do in the event the seller was supposed to leave something behind, but didn’t? If you don’t find out until after possession, you need to call your lawyer as it is now a legal issue between you and the seller. Your real estate professional can attempt to discuss the matter with the seller’s representative, but if things aren’t fixed to your satisfaction, your only recourse is to speak to your lawyer. 

“Ask Charles” is a question and answer column by Charles Stevenson, Director of Professional Standards with the Real Estate Council of Alberta (RECA), www.reca.ca. RECA is the independent, non-government agency responsible for the regulation of Alberta’s real estate industry. We license, govern, and set the standards of practice for all real estate, mortgage brokerage, and real estate appraisal professionals in Alberta. To submit a question, email askcharles@reca.ca.