What are Chattels and Fixtures in a Property?

Posted June 20, 2024
What are Chattels and Fixtures in a Property?

When buying or selling property, you’ll come across the terms “chattels” and “fixtures.” Let’s explore what these terms mean and why they are important in a property transaction.

What are Chattels?

Chattels are important because they aren’t automatically included in a property sale. When buying a house, don’t assume the seller will include any items like furniture or appliances. Always confirm what comes with the purchase.

Examples of Chattels

  • Furniture: Sofas, chairs, tables, and beds.
  • Appliances: Fridges, washing machines, and microwaves.
  • Decor: Pictures, mirrors, and rugs.
  • Outdoor items: Garden furniture, potted plants, and tools.

Chattels matter because they aren’t part of a property sale unless specifically stated. When purchasing a house, don’t assume the seller will include any chattels. Always confirm what is included in the deal.

What are Fixtures?

Fixtures are items attached to the property. They become a permanent part of the building or land. Removing them would cause damage to the property or require significant effort.

Examples of Fixtures

  • Built-in wardrobes: Closets that are fixed to the walls.
  • Kitchen units: Cupboards, worktops, and sinks that are fitted.
  • Central heating systems: Radiators, boilers, and piping.
  • Bathroom fittings: Toilets, sinks, and showers.

Fixtures matter because they are usually part of a property sale. When you purchase a house, expect all fixtures to remain unless the seller specifies differently. This clarity helps prevent disputes and smooths the transaction process.

The Grey Area: Fittings

Some items fall into a grey area between chattels and fixtures. These items are often called “fittings.” The classification can be ambiguous, leading to misunderstandings.

Examples of Fittings

  • Lighting: Ceiling lights that can be unscrewed but are wired into the property.
  • Curtain poles and blinds: Fixed to the walls but easily removable.
  • Oven and hob: Fitted appliances that may or may not be classified as fixtures.

To avoid disputes, list all fittings in the property contract. Clearly state which items will stay and which will go. Both parties should agree on this list to prevent any misunderstandings.

Legal Implications

Understanding the difference between chattels and fixtures is crucial. It affects what remains with the sale and what the seller can take.

Your property contract should specify what comes with the sale. List all chattels and fixtures in this document to ensure both parties agree. This clarity prevents disputes and sets clear expectations.

If a seller removes an item classified as a fixture, they might breach the contract. The buyer could then pursue legal action. On the other hand, if a buyer expects a chattel to be included but it’s not listed, they have no grounds for claim.

Practical Tips

For Buyers

  1. Inspect Carefully: During viewings, note which items are fixed and which are movable.
  2. Ask Questions: Clarify any ambiguities with the seller or estate agent.
  3. Review the Inventory: Ensure the inventory list in the contract matches what you expect.

For Sellers

  1. Provide Clarity: Clearly state what you will take and what you will leave.
  2. Be Honest: Misleading the buyer can lead to disputes.
  3. Update the Inventory: Ensure the inventory list is accurate and reflects your intentions.

Common Disputes

One common dispute involves built-in appliances. Are they chattels or fixtures? Typically, appliances like ovens and dishwashers, if built-in, are considered fixtures. Freestanding versions are chattels.

Another common issue is garden sheds. If the shed is fixed to the ground, it is a fixture. If it can be easily moved, it is a chattel.

Large mirrors and pictures can also cause disputes. If they are screwed into the wall, they may be considered fixtures. If they are simply hanging, they are chattels.

Case Law

D’Eyncourt v Gregory (1866)

This case helps determine whether an item is a fixture or a chattel. The court decided that items contributing to the architectural design of a property are fixtures. For instance, statues in a garden may be fixtures if they are part of the overall design.

Elitestone Ltd v Morris (1997)

In this case, the court decided that a bungalow resting on its own weight was part of the land. The decision highlighted that any item not easily removable without damage is likely a fixture.

Final Thoughts

Understanding chattels and fixtures is key in property transactions. It helps prevent disputes, sets clear expectations, and ensures a smooth buying or selling process. Always clarify what items are included in the sale and review the inventory list carefully.