Q: My partner just purchased her first home with money from a surprise inheritance. To our delight, the seller left a nice set of patio furniture. But when we met our new neighbor, rather than introduce herself, she told us that the seller had promised the furniture to her. This was the first we’d heard of the agreement. We don’t want to burn bridges before we even unpack, but the patio furniture is technically ours, and given our budget, we wouldn’t be able to replace it for some time. Are we being selfish by keeping it?
A: Some people welcome new neighbors with a basket of cookies or a potted plant. Yours welcomed you with a demand to take your stuff. The person burning the bridge here is your neighbor, not you.
Even if her account of the furniture agreement is correct, the seller should have given it to her before the sale closed, assuming the set wasn’t included in the sales contract. Regardless, whatever agreement the seller had with her neighbor has nothing to do with you. You own the house and all its contents, and are under no obligation to give any of it away.
“It says something about this neighbor who’s come over not carrying a pie, but a dolly and a moving van,” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert.
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