Can the Seller Refuse to Sell the House?

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We are in process of buying a house and have not closed yet. The neighbor built a fence that crosses over the property line about 1 1/2 to 3 feet onto what will be our property. The neighbor refuses to move the fence. Can the seller refuse to sell the house to me if I do not sign the closing paperwork until this is resolved?

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I’m afraid the answer here is “it depends.” First, on where you are (laws differ from place to place), but also on the details of your contract with the seller.

Typically, real estate contracts have what is known as “contingencies,” meaning that the buyer has a period of time to investigate certain things (such as getting financing, inspecting the property, etc.) and to back out of the contract if they are not satisfactory. Once the contingencies are waived, you can no longer back out for those reasons. Or, at least, can’t back out without a penalty.

So the first thing I’d look at is whether there is a remaining contingency in your contract that would cover this situation. If not, then you may be in for an argument.

If it came down to an argument, I would argue that the seller can’t hold up their end of the bargain, because they wouldn’t be giving you the property that you contracted to buy. Whether that argument would hold up depends on your local laws.

However, I would strongly recommend against getting into that argument if you can avoid it. Either your real estate agent or your attorney (whichever you use according to local custom) should be able to help you try to come to an agreement on this issue without getting in a fight, at least if that’s possible.

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Author: House Attorney