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Buyers 'should retain funds if homes are dirty on completion' lawyer says

A lawyer appears to be suggesting that ‘clean and tidy’ clauses be inserted into house purchase deals, allowing buyers to retain a sum if the property is left in an untidy state by the vendor.

The Daily Mail cites Kerry Sharples, deputy head of residential property at Gorvins Solicitors in Manchester, saying : “Not only can other people’s items be unpleasant or inconvenient to deal with, their removal can cost buyers a lot of money since they have to contend with disposing of piles of rubbish before they can move in.”

The Mail says lawyers are using ‘clean and tidy’ clauses in contracts, suggesting that some purchasers have been confronted with fridges brimming with rotten food, an urn containing ashes, animal faeces and even a dog tied up in the back yard.


In another case a buyer arrived to find the pyjama-clad seller sitting on the sofa eating dinner and watching TV. The latter apparently believed they had ‘a week or so’ to move out after completion.

“Many people assume that simply moving out on completion, with your furniture and personal possessions, is adequate and see no problem with leaving rubbish in the shed. However it should mean that it’s empty of people and property at the time it will be vacated” Sharples tells the paper.

She also advises purchasers to revisit a property just before exchange of contracts takes place.

“If the seller refuses to remove items or pay for their removal after completion, buyers can go to the small claims court to try to recover costs under £10,000” the paper adds.

The story does not refer to whether any such clause has been inserted in a purchase contract, nor what the response of the seller’s lawyers may be; however, some countries do have purchase clauses for so-called ‘pre-completion inspections’ days or houses before completion. 

Cleaning is often a cause of dispute in the rental sector at the tenant-checkout stage; some surveys suggest the issue lies behind over a half of deposit-retention cases.

Here’s the story on its spread into sales, as it appeared in the Mail over the weekend.

Poll: Should buyers hold back money if their new home is dirty?


  • Rob Hailstone

    The TA6 (Property Information Form) already contains this question:

    14.4. Will the seller ensure that:

    (a). All rubbish is removed from the property (including the loft, garden, outbuildings, garages and sheds) and that the property will be left in a clean and tidy condition?

    A clause in the contract would make no difference unless the buyer's conveyancer retained a sum of of money until the property had been inspected. Problem is, clean and tidy to one person, might have different meaning to another person.

  • Richard Copus

    How boring. It has been a standard clause since whenever that there must be "vacant possession on completion" which is exactly what it says and can be and is enforced. What exactly is "clean and tidy" is subjective and would be a lawyer's paradise to argue (which is possibly why it has been suggested).

  • icon

    Part of the problem is that people try to move out of one house and into another on the same day. I always advise my clients to do what Armed Forces personnel do, which is to have the movers pack up the day before, clean the place, and go and stay with friends or in a hotel overnight before they move in to the new place on completion day.


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