Profile picture for BruceMartinelli

Buyer found key to my house came in and demolished 400 sq ft of flooring.

Buyer entered my house prior to the close of escrow began remolding by tearing out 400 sq ft of tile.He did not have his agent with him but his agent told he it was OK and where the key was hidden. Can I keep his earnest money and cancel the contract?
  • September 25 2013 - US
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Answers (14)

Profile picture for sunnyview
Your best option is not to pull out of escrow, but to document the damage, try to get an email admission that the buyer did it with the agent's ok and to do what you can to close without a hassle.

What the buyer and their agent did was wrong. It was overstepping to a huge degree. However, it will not do you any good to cancel escrow since the remediation cost would be something you would have to fight with an attorney. 

If the buyers pull out of escrow, then sue their butt and press criminal charges. Also file a complaint with the licensing board for the agent. Get the documentation you need now in case it goes south, but you need to play it cool up to that point. I would not allow the buyers back in before close without a larger nonrefundable deposit in escrow.
  • September 26 2013
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Profile picture for BruceMartinelli
sorry but I left out the part that this asbestos flooring from the 55's, with the exposed adhesive creates a health problem. If it falls out of escrow, I believe I will have to make the house non-toxic by installing new flooring?
  • September 26 2013
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So what?  Why do you want to cancel?  If you are ready to pay thousands in attorney's fees for a chance at collecting any damages, and having your house on the market again for months (after fixing the damages), then yes, cancel the contract.  Otherwise, who cares the buyer got a little excited.  It's their house now.
  • September 26 2013
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I agree fully with both Socal and Steady on this.  Ask yourself, do I want to sell, did he know he was and intend to cause harm.
  • September 25 2013
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Profile picture for SoCal Engr
"Can I keep his earnest money and cancel the contract?"

To what end? Do you no longer want to sell? Are you looking to "punish" the buyer?

If your intent is still to sell the house, you'd likely be punishing yourself more than the buyer. Even if you managed to cancel the contract and keep the earnest money (imo, not likely), you now have a damaged house that needs repairs before it can be put back on the market...and you get to do the whole song-and-dance again.

Get all the information you can, including pictures of the damaged floor and any emails/etc. that documents what happened, and how, and who was involved. If nothing else, write down a chronology of the events, including dates and times.

And then...

After the transaction closes (i.e., you have your money and are out from under the house), send the information to the REA's broker, the broker's local franchising authority, and your state's board. Just because the transaction closes and you get your money, doesn't mean that the events should go unreported. But, don't punish yourself in the process.
  • September 25 2013
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Profile picture for SteadyState
Is it possible to prove that you were materially harmed by this action? If the property was expected to be vacant till escrow closes, it may be difficult to prove. It looks like the selling agent appears to think this is a done deal - if the sale goes through how were you set back?
Nevertheless, I am not an attorney and if you feel you were financially set back by the action of the buyer, please consult an attorney, However, I see little to get upset about at this point in time - if the buyer does not perform to close then there is an issue.
  • September 25 2013
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No.....you are bound under contract to sell.  He may have trespassed but that doesn't give you the right to cancel a contract.  On the other hand, you could possibly press legal action against the buyer and/or agent for criminal activity.  I wouldn't advise that if you still want him to buy the property though!  Definitely contact an attorney!
  • September 25 2013
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Unless the purchase agreement specifically states that you are permitted to keep the earnest money (which is easier said than done) and cancel the contract you need to speak to a real estate attorney to pursue those actions.

When were you going to close on the sale?  It's not unheard of that some ill-informed buyers and sellers agree to let buyers start work before the close of escrow.  I understand that you did not agree it and there's multiple violations here but at the end of the day would it be easier to close the deal and not deal with the mess of litigation, charges, etc?
  • September 25 2013
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Do you have proof it was them?  This is an important question.  An email confession will suffice.

Take that, go to the municipal law enforcement authority (varies where you are) and have them arrested for trespassing and destruction of property.

The Realtor is an accomplice to these crimes if they provided location to the key.  Again, you need proof.

Keep your contract and enforce it after you deal with the trespassing and destruction charges, get your money for the house and be on your way.  No reason to drag this out and find another buyer.

Whoever did this made their bed, now let them lay in it.
  • September 25 2013
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I would also contact the real estate agents broker that gave the buyer the key information without your permission.  If the agent gave that info out it is against or rules, unless seller specifies its ok.  I had a buyer go and put a roof on a home he was had not closed on yet, he was my client and I had no knowledge that is was happening. I also had a buyer on one my listings leave the backdoor unlocked during the final walk through, they than went to the home at night and started painting.  I found out because I walked in on them with pink paint on their hands.  That was almost a lawsuit. 
  • September 25 2013
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That is against the law for the buyers agent to let the buyer in the home without them present. They are not to give out lockbox codes to anyone. They should have been there with their client for their final walk through. I would speak with a real estate attorney.
  • September 25 2013
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Talk to a Real Estate Attorney, not just any attorney!! And ask what your options are? Buyers agent is incredibly stupid!! Good Luck!
  • September 25 2013
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Profile picture for Neeraj Jassal
Without question, speak to an attorney immediately to find out what your options are.  It appears there are several negligent (and possibly criminal)  factors here and you should know what is the best course of action.
  • September 25 2013
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If I were in your position I would immediately hire a Real Estate Attorney who will look over your contract and tell you what the next steps are here. Ignore any answers you get telling you otherwise.
  • September 25 2013
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