Chattels Vs Fixtures, Do You Know The Difference?

kitchen, chattel, fixture, home

What is the difference between a Chattel and a Fixture?

When you are buying or selling your home, do you know what is included in the price of the home? Have you wondered what is included and what is not included in the sale of the home? When you look at a home, the place looks a certain way and highlights the best parts of the home. In the process, there are times when the buyers may want something additional in the home. This item could be something that the seller wants to keep. This item could be a chattel or a fixture. Without knowing the differences between the two, you may experience some disappointment when the transaction closes. The result being that the item you had hope to buy is gone, or the item you value is something the buyer wants. As such, it is important for you to understand the distinction between a chattel and a fixture.

Chattels Vs Fixtures

Chattel is a piece of property that is not permanently attached to the land or building, and can be moved. Thus making them items of personal property. A fixture, on the other hand, is a piece of property that is attached to the land or building. In addition, as a general rule, the removal of the fixture would cause harm or damage to the land or building.

For example, the following are types of Chattels:

  • Blinds/curtains
  • Ovens
  • Dishwashers
  • Pieces of furniture
  • etc.

The opposite is true for Fixtures. For example, the following are examples of Fixtures:

  • Built in kitchen unit
  • Fireplace
  • Security systems
  • Boilers and radiators
  • Sinks
  • Baths and showers
  • etc.

While this seems clear cut, it can also become quite complicated. There are times when chattels can becomes fixtures and fixtures can become chattels. For instance, think of a microwave. If it is sitting on a counter, then it is a chattel. However, if it is affixed to a cabinet in the kitchen, then the microwave becomes a fixture.

Why Do You Need To Know The Difference Between Chattels And Fixtures?

Oftentimes, during the sale or purchase of a home, chattels are not taken into consideration when considering the purchase price. It is safe to assume that the rugs, pictures, and bed will not be a part of the transaction. In contrast, fixtures like wallpaper or a sink would be considered a fixture. This is because of the potential damage that would occur in removing them.

If a contract has been signed and the fixtures have been removed, then the purchase could have a legitimate suit in court. As such, all buyers should receive a list of all the home’s contents from the seller. The Home Contents List will inform the buyers of what exactly is a part of the purchase. In addition, it would also form part of the sale contract. Thus, making the list legally binding.

Something Is Missing During The Sale, What Do You Do?

If you do not have a Home Contents List, or something along those lines, then it is likely unclear what is and is not included in the sale and purchase of the home. This can be a complication because something the buyers thought they would be receiving in the course of the sale could be the thing that the sellers want to take with them.

In the case of a missing, but listed chattel, the buyer can communicate with their realtor to get the chattel back. In the alternative, they may opt to pursue a claim in small claims court. However, if the missing item is a fixture, such as the kitchen sink or the toilet, then it can be seen as a substantial breach of contract. In this instance, the buyer could pull out of the purchase and rescind the contract to purchase the property.

How Can I Avoid Something Missing During The Sale?

If buyers, sellers and/or their agents, are unsure about which category an item falls within, it is vital that intentions are clearly written in the Offer to Purchase Contract. In fact, it is best to avoid vague language. This can be done by specifically identifying the property. You can highlight what is looks like and where it is located. For example, rather than saying the mirror, it would be best to say the gold, square mirror hung in the foyer and is approximately 1 foot by 1 foot. This will ensure that there is no confusion at the time of signing the contract or moving forward in the transaction.

However, there are times where despite all best efforts, something will go missing or something that you thought was a fixture was seen as a chattel by the other. As such, should a dispute arise about whether something is a fixture or a chattel, you should take into consideration the facts of the case. What is the intention, what is the object, what is the purpose of the object and what is the degree of annexation of the chattel. In determining the answer to these questions, you will be able to better ascertain the strength of your argument, as well as the likelihood of the item being labelled as a chattel.

Some Common Items That Can Cause Confusion

The following are common instances of confusion between chattels and fixtures.

  • The Alarm System: is the alarm system built in to the home or is it wireless? If the system is wireless, then it would likely be considered a chattel, whereas a built in alarm will likely be seen to be a fixture of the home.
  • The Home Theater System: are the speakers attached to the home or are there multiple components to it? This determination can also be a common cause of confusion. Ultimately, you need to determine whether the system is easily removable? Is it moveable?
  • Sheds: This one can become more complicated based on how you argue something being a fixture. The shed can be seen as a fixture due to expense associated with having it removed. At the same time, it can also be seen as a chattel because it is movable and is not a permanent attachment to the land.

If you are ever confused as to whether something would be considered a fixture or a chattel, the best thing to do is to include it in your contract. If the item is written down, then both sides will be aware of what items are included in the sale and what are not.

We Can Help!

The lawyers at Kahane Law Office have years of experience and expertise allowing giving clients the best chance of success. Whether it be for assistance in drafting an offer to purchase or realizing that there was miscommunication in what is a chattel and a fixture. Please reach out to us if you would like legal advice or representation by calling us at 403-225-8810 or or email us today.