Having to move out of a home due to foreclosure is a stressful experience for any Florida homeowners. Still, homeowners should not let the stress drive them to intentionally damage or devalue their homes before the foreclosure auction — an unethical practice called “foreclosure stripping.”
In many states, foreclosure stripping, depending on the extent of the damage done, is illegal and may lead to criminal charges filed by lenders or district attorneys. A more typical consequence — lenders may enlist the expertise of West Palm Beach foreclosure attorneys and file a lawsuit against liable homeowners.
Personal Property Versus Fixtures
Both Florida homeowners and lenders should be aware of what can be taken from a foreclosed home and what cannot. The main concept to understand is the difference between “personal property” and “fixtures” — the former can be taken away during move-out, while the latter cannot. Personal property is not considered real estate and encompasses easily removable property and assets not affixed onto the house. Fixtures are considered real estate because they are built-in and irremovable or not easy to detach without causing property damage.
Assets That Should Stay and Remain Undamaged — Fixtures
- Cabinets and counter tops
- Built-in appliances like microwaves, dishwashers, washing machines, stoves with kitchen ventilation systems
- Built-in furniture like shelving and cabinetry
- Heating and air conditioning units
- Wired alarm systems and sprinkler systems
- Doors, windows, flooring, ceiling material, installed carpeting
- Electoral wiring, plumbing, pipes
- Sinks, tubs, toilets, showers, faucets
- Light fixtures and other upgrades (unless they are replaced before move-out)
- Custom window treatments
- In-ground landscaping
Assets That Can and Should Be Taken — Personal Property
- Free-standing furniture
- Detachable appliances like refrigerators, dryers, computers, unmounted televisions (lenders often request for ovens to remain)
- Free-hanging mirrors, portable fans, and floor lamps
- Personal photos and easily removable artwork like paintings, sculptures
- Pet-related items like cages, dog houses, aquariums
- Indoor and potted plants
- All other personal items like clothing, jewelry, books, rugs, curtains, easily removable ornaments and accessories
Florida homeowners who remove fixtures before moving out of their foreclosing homes are often breaching the mortgage contract they signed — in which they agreed to protect their lender’s security interest, the house, and not to harm its chances of being sold near or at full value. Engaging in foreclosure stripping severely devalues a home, therefore lenders have the right to pursue legal action against offending homeowners.
Our West Palm Beach foreclosure attorneys are experienced at representing both homeowners and lenders in civil court. Learn how we can address any of your foreclosure litigation needs — Call the law offices of Kelley and Fulton today.