I am writing on behalf of some African refugees, renting property.
The Federal government appears to channel all help for refugees through Catholic Social Services. They receive a certain sum for each refugee and then they dispense coupons for used furniture, clothing, etc. which can be used at Catholic consignment store. Catholic Social Services places the refugees (unrelated individuals) together in various apartments, houses, and pays for the first 3 months of rent.
The refugees may continue to stay on the property by paying rent after the 3 month period is up. ( But they hope to move to a better area when they have jobs.)
The refugees have questions concerning ownership of various items --whether they belong to Catholic Social Services, the owners of the houses/apartments, or to the refugees themselves. This property can be divided into 3 groups:
A. the pieces of furniture, pots and pans, dishes, etc. initially delivered to their homes by Catholic Social Services.
B. TVs and other things donated by other people. (They naturally do not have any receipts for any of these items.)
C. One household has received a washer, which is now installed. They also received some pictures which now hang on the walls, and have hung drapes.
(The owner of the property insists the washer must stay behind when they move because it is now attached to the plumbing of his house. He says anything attached to the house, such as the rods installed for the drapes, and even the pictures, is now considered his property and does not belong to the refugees.) Is this true?
2 Answers from Attorneys
Basically, a fixture is an item permanently attached to a wall, ceiling or floor. If the landlord did not purchase the drapes, they can be removed. The curtain rods, however, can be considered fixtures and should stay. The wall pictures are not fixtures and can leave with the tenants if the pictures were not already there. The hooks used to hang the pictures would be considered normal usage or "wear-and-tear" unless the holes in the walls are excessive. The washing machine should belong to the tenants unless it was intended to be part of the lease agreement. The items purchased using coupons or cash belong to the tenants, as well as the donated items. The donations would be considered gifts to the tenants. Any exceptions would be if terms that are different from what I have written here are spelled out in the signed and understood lease agreements.
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