What Can You Take From Your Foreclosed Home?

Man and Woman Carrying Rug in House

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Ever wonder what you can legally take from a home in foreclosure? Depending on what you remove from a foreclosure home, you could get sued by the bank. Here is how it works: Personal property is that which is not real estate. However, fixtures are real estate because they are not personal property; they are affixed to the land, to the house, which means fixtures stay with the house.

But that doesn't stop some desperate homeowners from smashing walls to rip out Romex wiring or copper pipes and selling them for scrap in back alleys. Some misguided homeowners, angry at the bank for foreclosing, think it's somehow permissible to destroy their home.

They don't stop to think about the consequences for the next set of first-time homebuyers who have pinched, saved, and worked hard to qualify to buy a home priced at the bottom of the market, in "as is" condition, from a lender who couldn't sell it on the county courthouse steps because the home was trashed by its previous occupants.

What Cannot Be Removed From a Foreclosed Home

The following items are assets, fixtures that should not be removed from a home that is in foreclosure:

  • Cabinets and countertops
  • Appliances such as stoves, built-in microwaves, dishwashers, etc.
  • Furnaces and air conditioning units
  • Plumbing and copper pipes
  • Romex or other electrical wirings
  • Light fixtures and ceiling fans
  • Doors and hardware
  • Flooring, ceilings, and walls
  • Windows and vents
  • Medicine cabinets, sinks, tubs, toilets, and showers
  • Sink drains and faucets
  • Built-in shelving/bookcases
  • Landscaping, fencing, built-in pools and spas

When seeking payment due to damaged or missing items, insurance companies will be relentless, committed to the collection, and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law. They can also garnish wages and seize bank accounts after a judgment.

What Can Be Removed From a Foreclosed Home

Items homeowners can remove without fearing prosecution or legal ramifications from the bank include:

  • All personal items that were not converted to fixtures when brought into the home by the owner, such as furniture, clothing, and common household items like dishes, pans, and silverware
  • Mirrors that are free-hanging
  • Personal artwork and photographs from the walls
  • Stationary table and floor lamps
  • Pets and pet-related items, such as dog houses, aquariums, bird cages
  • Easily removable, not affixed, window coverings, such as drapes or curtains
  • Refrigerators, washers and dryers, televisions, computers, and stereo equipment
  • Throw rugs and area rugs
  • Indoor plants
  • Portable fans and heaters

If a homeowner leaves behind personal belongings, the lender will seize those items. If the lender stores them, the homeowner could be charged for storage.

Vandalizing Homes in Foreclosure

It's not acceptable to spray paint the walls or windows with graphic images or tagging. Sometimes homeowners turn on the water faucets and plug up the drains before departing.

People who vandalize a home they are losing through foreclosure are not harming the bank by their illegal actions. They are harming innocent home buyers who are looking to achieve the American dream of homeownership. In short, owners who trash their homes are hurting themselves, as vandalism is against the law.

Repercussions of Vandalizing or Stripping a Foreclosed Home

Homeowner's insurance companies are most likely to pursue and prosecute homeowners who vandalize or strip their homes while in foreclosure. When the bank receives title to the home through foreclosure proceedings, many banks submit an insurance claim to the existing insurance company to cover any damage and missing real property items.

Insurance companies then actively go after the owners because the company has faced a loss due to the homeowner's intentional behavior. It's then their sole focus to force the owner to pay compensation for the loss. Although losing your home can make you angry and resentful, you will have to pay more to cover any damages that you caused to make it less valuable.

Article Sources

  1. New York State. "Real vs. Personal Property," Pages 2-5. Accessed Dec. 4, 2020.