Pop quiz: In which state is it illegal to milk another person's cow, give your child a silly haircut and take more than three sips of beer while standing? Texas, of course. Unless you're an outlaw dairy farmer with a mullet (to match your kid's hairdo) who drinks her beer on the run, it's unlikely the feds will come after you for any of the above indiscretions. However, you can get nailed on some equally ridiculous housing laws–namely, in relation to the question "Does that come with the house?"
Turns out, in the great state of Texas, if any improvements or accessories are attached to a property when it's shown to potential buyers, they become the legal property of the final buyer. This includes everything: pots on a pegboard, petunias planted in the front lawn, mounted shelves and framed photos, even above ground pools. Essentially, anything that could leave a gaping hole once removed has to stay, according to the Texas Real Estate Commission's One to Four Family Residential Contract (Resale). This includes "installed and built-in items" like "valances, screens, shutters, awnings, wall-to-wall carpeting, mirrors, ceiling fans, attic fans, mailboxes, television antennas, […], cleaning equipment, shrubbery, landscaping, outdoor cooking equipment, and all other property owned by Seller and attached to the above described real property." That all sounds fairly obvious. But the accessories bit also includes "curtains and rods," the aforementioned "above ground pool" and "swimming pool equipment," as well as "artificial fireplace logs." Artificial. Fireplace. Logs.
So who's the seller that first carted away their above ground pool? And who's the buyer who's disgruntled when they see only five artificial logs when there were six during the open house? These questions may forever remain a mystery, but more importantly, how you do avoid a Texas lawsuit (or just bad vibes) when putting your house on the market? Simply remove any items you plan to keep before you begin showing your house. On the flipside, as a buyer, if you really, really want that sixth log, make certain to ask for its inclusion in your final offer.
If the possession of an item comes down to a buyer vs. seller squabble, the buyer wins almost every time in Texas. So while it's always a good time to poke fun at laws like "It is illegal to tuck your pants into one boot unless you own ten or more cattle," it's less fun to lose your priceless wall art and heirloom curtain rods in a ridiculous legal battle just because you thought they added a little zest to the open house. Just a word to the wise.