When buying or selling property, it’s important to have a basic understanding of certain terms. Items that are attached to the land are known as fixtures and are normally sold with the land. Personal property that can be moved are known as chattels and are less likely to be transferred with the title. This may seem relatively straight-forward, however, problems may occur when it is less obvious as to whether an item is a fixture or chattel.
Where a dispute arises, aspects such as intention, purpose and the degree of annexation will be taken into account. If the item is attached to the land by more than its weight and removing it would cause damage to the property, it is assumed that the item is a fixture. However, if the vendor intended for the item to be moved upon sale of the property and it can be moved with ease, then it may be considered a chattel.
Alex sells her property to Michael. Upon signing the contract of sale, Michael assumes that the dishwasher is included. Prior to settlement, however, Alex removes the dishwasher to take to her next property. A dispute arises when Michael becomes aware that the item has been removed.
In this instance, a court would consider whether the kitchen had been specifically designed to incorporate a dishwasher. If, after removing the dishwasher the kitchen was left with an obvious ‘gap’, then it is likely to be considered a fixture.
To avoid confusion and potential disputes, it is important to know exactly what is included when purchasing property. If you are under the assumption that certain items will be sold with the property, ensure that the vendor has included them within the Contract of Sale prior to signing.