Consider rescheduling closing instead of a post-settlement occupancy

Home sellers and buyers look forward to closing day, when the deed to the home transfers; and in a perfect world, everyone moves on with their life. However, there are times when the seller asks to stay in the home after settlement. Ideally, a post-settlement occupancy can be avoided by adjusting the settlement date to accommodate the extra days needed to stay in the home. But alas, the world is not perfect and sometimes a post-settlement occupancy is quickly arranged. Whether you’re the home seller or the buyer, make certain you understand the post-settlement occupancy agreement: what you’re getting into, as well as your risk and liability.

Typically, when someone “rents” a home, a standard lease is used; but since the post-settlement duration is usually very short, the post-settlement occupancy agreement is mistakenly an afterthought to the home sales contract. Here in Maryland, there may be various forms that are specifically used in a particular region for this purpose; such as the one that is used here locally.  Just like the sales contract, the post-settlement occupancy agreement contains terms and conditions, including duration and fee collected.

Additionally, a deposit is collected in case there are damages to the home during the post-settlement occupancy. The buyer usually has a walkthrough prior to the settlement, as well as at the end of the post-settlement occupancy to ensure that there is no damage and the home is conveyed in the condition that is expected.

Unfortunately, the risk of loss and liability to the home during a post-settlement occupancy can be vague. Even if the post-settlement occupancy agreement specifies who is responsible for such loss, there may be additional considerations.

moving dayIt is usually expected that the seller repair any damage they caused during their post-settlement occupancy. But what about damage or loss caused by a fire or an extreme weather event (such as a tornado or a hurricane)?

Even if the post-settlement occupancy agreement is specific about risk of loss and liability, your insurance company might have a different view of risk of loss and liability in a post-settlement occupancy arrangement. Any insurance carried by the home seller may limit or exclude coverage from such damage/loss that occurs during the post-settlement occupancy. Furthermore, the buyer’s home owner’s policy may have exclusions and/or limitations for coverage if the home is vacant or occupied by anyone other than the policy holder. Consult with your insurance company.

Another consideration is that the buyer’s mortgage company may have restrictions about a post-settlement occupancy. The mortgage note may specify that the home be “owner occupied;” which means that the home is not to be rented. A post-settlement occupancy by the seller may infringe on the terms and conditions of the mortgage note. Consult with your mortgage company.

Even if your real estate agent is able to explain the post-settlement occupancy agreement to you, there are considerations other than what is written on the form – you should consult with your attorney before entering into such an agreement.

Due diligence is required before entering into a post-settlement occupancy agreement. Consult with your agent about rescheduling settlement, if possible. Additionally, consult your attorney, insurance agent, as well as your mortgage company to make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the agreement, as well as your liability and risk of loss.

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By Dan Krell

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2012 Dan Krell.