'Our sellers are removing the wood burning stove. Can we stop them?'

Ask an Expert: We're buying a house where the sellers now claim they are 'owed' the stove after accepting a lower offer. The offer has been accepted but we have not yet signed contracts. The advertising literature said the house had a “wood burning stove in the lounge, which is a useful complement to the gas fired central heating system”.

However, the inventory says the wood burning stove is not included. After pointing out that it was mentioned on the advert, the owners said it is not included because we offered less than the asking price. Do we have any consumer protection on this? We're concerned that the seller may pull out if we keep arguing the point, but it seems unreasonable.—HJ, via email When making an offer on a property, negotiations are always “subject to contract”, which means that until contracts have been exchanged, neither party is bound to the transaction. Both parties are free to walk away or try to renegotiate the terms.

Tom Allfree, head of residential property at law firm Wedlake Bell, said in this case you made an offer based partly on the 'Our sellers are removing the wood burning stove. Can we stop them?'advertisement and the understanding that the wood burning stove was included. “The seller is free to exclude the wood burner, but this should have been made clear during the negotiations leading up to the sale being agreed,” he said. “If the seller was not happy with the price you offered, the seller should have rejected your offer, or instructed the estate agent to renegotiate the terms, so that both parties ended up with terms they are happy with.”

Speak to the estate agent, who is in the unique position of being able to talk to both the buyer and the seller directly. They will understand your position and can try to talk to the seller directly.

“There are however times with residential property transactions where emotions come into play, and parties become entrenched in unreasonable positions,” Mr Allfree said. “It is important to keep perspective and not lose the property on a point of principle that you may regret later. Wood burning stoves are lovely but, in the context of the purchase of your home, they are relatively inexpensive. If your lawyer and the estate agent are unable to persuade the seller to change their unreasonable stance, then you may need to count to 10, budget for a new stove and quietly agree to strike the seller off your Christmas card list.”


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