Real Estate 101: The Ins And Outs Of Chattels

What Is A Chattel? 

Chattel is considered personal property as opposed to real property. It includes any tangible movable items (furniture, lawnmower etc.), which are neither land nor permanently attached to the property.

Fixture on the other hand, is an object firmly fixed in place such as appliances, satellite dishes, carpeting, etc.

Why Is It Important To Me As A Buyer Or Seller? 

In a home purchase (sale of real property) between a seller and a buyer, the agents and lawyers must determine in the Agreement of Purchase of Sale what objects in and around the property are chattels and which are fixtures. This is necessary to determine which objects will be included in the sale of the property. A seller must generally leave the fixtures on the premises but has the ability to take the chattels.

Misidentifying chattels and fixtures is one of the most common sources of debate in real estate. The seller and buyer may have different understandings as to what specific piece of personal property is a part of the house, therefore, it is vital to carefully determine what property will be deemed a chattel versus a fixture.

As a buyer, it is best to list/photograph the make, model, color, location and serial numbers of all chattels that are being included. The more details, the safer you are from future issues. A prime example is a 2003 court decision of Ontario where a seller was caught switching appliances before the closing for non-functional ones. In addition, it is important to check the condition of all appliances prior to closing date, since in a 2008 court decision of Ontario; a buyer bought a cottage and checked the dishwasher one month after closing, only to find that it was broken.

General Rules To Determine What Is A Fixture And What Is A Chattel

There are two presumptions in law that helps to categorize property as a chattel or a fixture:

Presumption of a FixtureThe general rule is that a thing that is affixed to the real estate will be presumed to be a fixture, unless the evidence shows it is affixed for the purpose of making better use of it as a chattel as opposed to being an integrated part of the property as a whole. Common examples of fixtures include stoves, dishwashers, fridges, washer & dryer and light fixtures.

Presumption of a Chattel: The general rule is that a thing that is not fixed to real estate will be presumed to be a chattel unless the evidence shows that its presence on the property is intended to make it an integral part or an enhancement of the property as a whole. Common examples of chattels include home theatre systems, living room furniture and bedroom furniture just to name a few. As explained before, basically anything not affixed to the land is a chattel.

Navigating The Difference Between Chattels & Fixtures

Is a light bulb a chattel or a fixture? 

The electric light fixture itself is a fixture because it is screwed into place and affixed to the ceiling. However, the light bulb itself is an object that is placed into the fixture and is easily moveable/removable. If as the seller, you had purchased an expensive chandelier and would like to take that with you, you must explicitly state its exclusion in the purchase and sale agreement.

Is a washroom mirror a chattel or fixture?

A washroom mirror can actually be both. A mirror could be a fixture if it were glued into place, but it also could qualify as a chattel if you can easily pull it down off the wall. The status of items such as this should be explicitly discussed so both the buyer and the seller are aware of who gets to keep it.

Is a utility shed a chattel or fixture?

A utility shed although at first glance it may appear to be a fixture, it is actually a chattel. This is because it is not annexed to the land.

Is a big screen TV that is hung on a bracket attached to the wall a chattel or fixture?

The bracket would be considered a fixture since it is attached to the wall. However, the actual big screen TV would be considered a chattel.

 

Please note the content on this web site is provided for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice of any kind.

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