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Fixture or chattel?

4 February 2019

Disputes regarding property and the question on whether something is a fixture or chattel can be complex.

Generally, chattels are items belonging to a seller than can easily be removed such as furniture or household appliances. If they are not marked as an inclusion in the contract, the seller is entitled to remove them prior to settlement.

A fixture is something that is attached to the land, and when land is sold, the title to the land will include all fixtures.

But the law is never that simple.

The basic test whether an item is a chattel or fixture depends on whether it was placed on the land with the intention that it remain separate from it.

In determining intention the courts will look at whether the item has been attached to the land and, if so, the degree of annexation. However an item can also be a fixture where it simply rests on land by virtue of its own weight.

Some case law examples:

  • cattle crush - in a cattle yard consisting of wooden and barbed wire fences, metal gates, a calf cradle and other metal equipment, all of which together form the cattle yards has been taken to be a fixture.
  • dishwasher - was found to be a fixture because it had been set into the cabinet, left a gap when removed and tiling had stopped at the point where the dishwasher once sat. If the dishwasher stood separately it would be a chattel.
  • plant and equipment - associated with manufacturing confectionary were held to be chattels as there was no difficulty in moving it and consistent with the fact that the business was structured to be carried on at the new factory.

If you are a seller and want an item excluded from your sale, let your solicitor know to mark it on the contract as excluded.

Equally as important, if you are a purchaser and expect an item to be included in the sale, make sure your solicitor requests the inclusion be added to the contract.

This article is general information only and should not be relied on without obtaining further specific information.

Michaela Schmidt Business Lawyer / Director

Michaela Schmidt is a Business Lawyer with expertise in commercial matters matters including issues relating to succession, trusts and property. .. Learn more about Michaela Schmidt

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