Q: We recently purchased a home and our lawyer was quite efficient and managed to close the transaction by mid-day on the day of closing. Anxious to go see our new place, we picked up the keys from our lawyer and proceeded to the house. When we arrived, we found the former owner was still moving out and refused us entry (with our contractor). We called our lawyer who stated that they should be out and certainly should not be refusing access. What should we have done?
A: There is a great amount of confusion about possession of a new home.
In the pro forma contract, it states the parties have until 6 p.m. on the day of closing to complete the transaction and so many people assume this is when you have to be out of the sold home.
However, the vacant possession technically should occur when the money and the keys have changed hands and the transaction is registered by your lawyer.
So, if you had your keys, your transaction had been registered and you had the right to enter the property. That being said, there is very frequently overlap if someone is buying and selling the same day and people move from their old home to their new home.
We advise clients that if you get there during the day and they are still vacating the premises, be patient and let them get on with their work. However, they should not be refusing you access to the home because technically you own it.
If they insist you not enter, I would not be adverse to having the client call the police as technically, they are trespassing. This of course is a last resort and co-operation is a much better approach.
Jeffrey Cowan is the principal of Cowan Law and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.