Tenant taking what she feels is hers

26 Replies

We purchased a home that had a tenant living in it. The previous home owner gave the tenant notice that she needed to leave prior to us purchasing it. When the tenant was there, the furnace stopped working & instead of having the homeowner call in someone to work on fix it, she hired someone to install a new one. When she moved out, she took the furnace she purchased with her, so the home no longer has a furnace in it. We purchased it with a furnace. Is it right for us a the new owners to call authorities and report this stolen?

Just when you thought you heard everything a tenant could take. What was there on the walk through?, what was there when you closed?, what was on the disclosure? If it was there on inspection , included at closing, and not excluded on listing then it was stolen. However the devil is in the details.

Everything was in place prior to and following closing with the owner. It was taken by tenant after that.  

@Michele Carney call the police and report it stolen ASAP. Items like a furnace, roof, walls, windows, water heater, etc. are physically attached to the property and are considered part of the property. If the tenant wanted reimbursement, they should have contacted the seller. Installing a furnace costs thousands of dollars. This could rise to the level of felony theft. After you file the police report, you may choose to pursue legal action against the seller and/or tenant for the cost to replace. This depends on how the police treat it and how the tenant reacts.

Anything that is permanently attached belongs to the owner. 

Read your purchase agreement.  Here in Michigan our standard PA here are worded to include major items such as furnaces and other items attached to the property.  We do have an exclusion paragraph that lists items excluded.  However I  personally feel that the tenant is being problematic because they are being forced from their residence.  You should contact the listing agent (if you're working with one)  and the seller to inform them that the tenant took the furnace.   Here in MI if something  is missing from the final walk through and you have proof then the person her will be held financially responsible for the replacement or you can revoke the deal.

Man that's crazy to think someone would take out the furnace. Its not like taking it out is easy unless that is if you don't care and just rip it out. Hopefully the seller takes care of it and you don't have to take legal action with the old tenant.

In Michigan, since this involves a rental, most police departments will say this is a "civil issue" and not something they will follow up on.  Otherwise, I'd call an attorney on this one...sometimes it's just best to use professional help...especially since this involves a purchase.

The real estate contract for the purchase of the house is with the seller, not the previous tenant. It should include all of the fixtures and the seller of the house should work with you to remedy the situation. 

It is easy to determine what is 'personal property' vs. what is considered a 'fixture'. When personal property is affixed to the structure by means of bolts, screws, nails, cement, glue or other permanent attachment, it becomes a 'fixture' which is part of the real estate. At the time real property is sold, fixtures are automatically included in the sales price unless specifically excluded.

Ultimately, sellers and buyers should avoid assumptions. Put all items of interest or concern to you in the purchase agreement.

It is going to get messy but being a furnace file a police report to establishing when it was gone. If the tenant admits taking it then get legal guidance on how to establish that. If the tenant admits taking in writing that is probably best. How long after closing did they remove it?

It was about 30 days after closing that it was taken

You purchased the property with the tenant in place. That being said if I was the seller I would most likely tell you to take it up with your previous tenant. You owned the furnace when you bought the property and you took over the lease, so the tenant was yours not theirs. I would follow the others direction and report it stolen. Now if she has something in writing that she was allowed to install it or remove it etc, then you can talk to the previous owner, if she just did not then I would have it returned from her.

Good Luck!

So the tenant didn't move out prior to closing even though the original owner gave her notice to vacate? Or were the locks never changed and she had a key? Or did she force her way in?

Either way, start with filing a report with the police. Do you have absolute proof the tenant took the furnace as in you have a text message, voicemail from her saying so? Was there video of this? Witnesses?

I do not see how police could treat this as a civil matter.

Yes; the tenant stayed there & gave a 30(ish) day notice after closing so she still had access to the home. Either she or someone she hired, took the furnace.

@Michele Carney Do you have a security deposit for the tenant and will it cover some/all of the cost of a new furnace?  You could save your self the time and effort of chasing down the tenant and trying to collect/remedy, and thereby recoup your loss and flip the burden of a suit on them.  I would still file a police report so that you have that for documentation/evidence if it does blow back on you

This was not out tenant, so we did not have a security deposit, nor was she paying rent to either us or the previous owner, which is why she left.

You will need to take your ex tenant to small claims court if the police do not charge her with theft. Make sure you get a copy of the police report.

Something does not sound right here. You closed on the property with a tenant in place correct? but then say she was not your tenant and was not paying rent? im very confused. without further clarification, im no sure whats going on, but to be sure that furnace is yours and you should pursue. call police first and report it stolen. what evidence do you have that furnace was taken by tenant? police may not help cause tenant took it, but hopefully they at least file a report.

when did tenant leave and when was furnace noticed to be gone?

I am confused. If she was not your tenant why did you allow her on your property after closing? If she was your tenant you should of been provided with her security deposit at a minimum.

This post has been removed.

Originally posted by @Amy Beth :

I am confused. If she was not your tenant why did you allow her on your property after closing? If she was your tenant you should of been provided with her security deposit at a minimum.

 I agree, it sounds like the previous gave a false promise in order to skip out with the SD.  Things like this need to be resolved prior to closing.

The furnace is attached to the property and can’t be removed unless a written agreement between parties is in place.

She was the previous owners' tenant and gave her notice prior to our closing on the property. Out of courtesy, we let her stay there for 30 days to give her time to move; she never paid rent. The furnace was in place at the time of closing & was removed during the 30 days she said she needed to move out.

As you've discovered already, don't do a courtesy for tenants. They had the 30 day notice to move out... that was all the time they needed. If they weren't out, I would have postponed closing... that'd likely put a fire under the seller to take stronger action. Obviously, all this doesn't matter at this point, but a hard lesson for the future.

Have you called the police yet? What has happened so far?

Yes; we have called the police and filed a report and they were planning to make an arrest based on information we provided them. I don't know the outcome since this is a very recent event & the report was filed today!

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