We recently received this question:
A number of years ago friends bought a home in Morinville. The house had hardwood flooring throughout the main floor. When they purchased the home, the hardwood was in great shape and even though the seller had a big dog, they advised it was an outside dog only. The day they took possession, the hardwood floors had been scratched to the point they had to get them refinished. The owners had let the dog run wild in the house, yet they were told there was nothing they could do about it as it was considered normal wear and tear and the seller was off the hook. Having never purchased a resale home, what happens if there is damage that wasn’t there when the home was purchased. How do buyers protect themselves?
As REALTORS® we deal with problems on possession day frequently. Unfortunately buyers' expectations for a pristine new home are often much higher than sellers willingness to provide that pristine home. So what should a buyer expect on possession day?The Purchase Contract used by REALTORS® in the Province of Alberta states:
When the Buyer obtains possession, the Property will be in substantially the same condition as it was in when this Contract was accepted.
So, in this case if the floors were not damaged when the buyers agreed to purchase the home, they should have been in the same condition on possession day. The definition of "normal wear and tear" is quite subjective (Sheldon always says "normal" is one of the most dangerous words on a contract).
The remedy to the situation is the law, and this situation sounds like a pretty cut and dry case - the sellers agreed to something but did not deliver. Sometimes the agents are able to negotiate a solution on behalf of their clients, and sometimes the lawyers and even the courts have to get involved. When the buyers took possession of the home, and saw the floors were ruined, the first step is to document the damage (take pictures) and let your agent know there is a problem. There are a lot of different directions things could go from that point on, but it sounds like your friends may have backed down a little too easily.
If, as a buyer, you have specific concerns about the condition of the property, you can write terms into the contract to address the concerns. You run the risk of offending the seller and derailing negotiations, but if they have an issue it may raise some red flags. We sometimes see terms included that specify the carpets will be professionally steam cleaned or the house will be professionally clean prior to possession. The problem of course is that if you are particular about these types of things, it is likely that the job done will not be up to your standards, especially if the home was not that clean to begin with. In this case you are probably better off focusing your negotiations on getting the best price, and hiring the cleaning professionals and packages of your choice.