I live in the UK, and am currently in the process of buying my first house.
After viewing the house, I initially made an offer that was a bit lower than the asking price. The sellers declined the offer, and I ended up going back to them and offering the asking price, with the condition that they leave some of the fixtures and furnishings- they accepted this verbal offer.
I am currently getting all of the documentation signed & witnessed to send back to my solicitor to proceed with the purchase. However, when going through the documentation, I noticed that there was one specific item on the list of fixtures and furnishings that had been ticked as 'excluded', despite this being one of the items I had specifically requested, and the sellers verbally agreed to (the sellers had also offered to include some things I hadn't specified, as they are down-sizing).
I emailed my solicitor to request an updated list of fixtures and furnishings which would include this specific item, and they got back to me to say that "the fixtures list is attached, the sellers haven't proposed to send a new one to reflect the missing item". I emailed my solicitor back to ask them to specifically request an updated list, including this item, and they got back to me asking me to send the signed documentation through, and said that they would update it on their end then, with everyone's agreement...
I am a bit skeptical of this... although it is not a deal-breaker, the particular item would be a few hundred pounds for me to purchase myself, and I'm a bit miffed that it appears that the sellers are now trying to back-track on what they had agreed to verbally.
I was also surprised that my solicitor asked me to send the signed documents, and said that they would subsequently alter one of the documents (even if they did specify "with everyone's agreement")... My (very limited) understanding of the law, is that once a contract (and any associated documents) have been signed, dated & witnessed, they become legally binding- or in the case of a house purchase, is this just at the point of exchange of contracts?
Even if it is only at the point of exchange of contracts, the fact that my solicitor expressly stated that they would alter a signed document (even if they did say "with everyone's agreement"), immediately rang alarm bells for me- surely you would need a new document to replace the original one, if there were changes to be made, and this new document would need to be signed by all parties?
While the list of fixtures and furnishings is hardly the most important thing in a house purchase, if they can make changes to that signed document, what's to stop them making changes to the purchase contract (for example, the price at which I have agreed to purchase the property), without my knowledge or consent?
My solicitor is now waiting for me to send all of the signed documentation to them, including the list of fixtures & furnishings with the excluded item.
How should I handle this?
To be clear, I am not asking for advice on whether or not to proceed, or anything like that- simply what the legal implications are of altering a document after it has been signed.