fixtures and chattels – what are they?

When buying or selling your property, it can be difficult to understand the ins and outs of fixtures and chattels, and what it can mean for you.

If you attend an open inspection of a house and you really like the chandelier in the front hallway, or that statue in the garden, would you know if it’s yours to keep should you purchase the property?

what are fixtures and chattels?

Fixtures are goods that have become ‘annexed’ to the land in some way, and as a result are considered part of the land in a property sale. A fixture could be a built-in shelf, or a rainwater tank.

Chattels are goods that are considered moveable and transitory in nature – they can generally be removed from a location without issue, like a television, rug, or a couch.

Even a slight attachment to the land is enough to raise the presumption that a chattel is in fact a fixture. However, historical legal cases such as D’Eyncourt v Gregory in the year 1886 have told us that just because an item isn’t attached to the land, it doesn’t mean that the item can’t be considered a fixture. This has been the case where moveable goods were considered ‘strictly and properly part of the architectural design’ of the property. Nowadays, the contract helps vendors and purchasers to specify what items will stay with or leave the property after settlement.

Generally, any goods attached to someone else’s land without permission can’t be recovered by the person who originally owned the goods, according to the case of Brand v Chris Building Society Pty Ltd. Keep this in mind should you ever decide to illegally fix something to someone else’s land.

what do i need to know about fixtures and chattels when buying or selling a property?

When a transfer of title takes place, fixtures will remain with the property itself, and therefore be owned by the purchaser, while personal chattels will remain with the vendor. If a vendor wishes to keep any fixtures or specific chattels, this has to be expressly provided for in the contract. For example, shrubs and planted landscaping could remain with the property as fixtures of the property unless otherwise stated in the contract. Chattels that could be included with the property (if provided for in the contract) could be kitchen appliances, or even pot plants in the garden.

Disputes can rise when it is difficult to determine if something is considered a fixture or not. To avoid any disputes, it is important that all the items which are included in or excluded from the sale are set out in the contract.

what else should be considered when dealing with chattels?

Some items which may be an essential part of a home may not be included with a sale because they still need to be paid off. The additional cost of taking over a vendor’s payments, or the expense of replacing these items, should be taken into account when a purchase price is fixed.

The removal of chattels can also occasionally lead to expensive repairs, which should be considered when a purchase price is agreed.

While there is lots to consider, the provisions within a standard contract for the sale of a property can clarify things by allowing the vendor and purchaser to negotiate on which chattels will be included in and excluded from the purchase.