Difference between Fixtures and Fittings


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What Are Fixtures And Fittings?

A fixture is something that is affixed to the walls, floor or ceiling of a property. A fitting is something that is a freestanding item or something that is temporarily secured to the walls or ceiling by a screw, hook or nail etc. Here’s a list of some of the most common of each category.

Fixtures:

A fixture is defined as an asset that is installed or otherwise fixed in or to a building or land so as to become part of that building or land in law. A fixture is any item that is intended to be reasonably permanent and is affixed to the property through the application of plaster, cement, bolts, screws, nuts, or nails

  • Light switches
  • Central heatingboilers and radiators
  • Airconditioners
  • Bathroom units and bathroom suite – bath, sink, toilet and anything else that’s attached to the property
  • Plug sockets
  • Fixed partitions and doors
  • Electrical installations
  • Electric sockets
  • Light fittings
  • Security alarm systems
  • Television aerials and satellite dishes
  • Fires and fire surrounds
  • Central-heating boilers and radiators
  • Plumbing installations
  • Vanity furniture
  • Cubicles/ shower screens
  • Kitchen units
  • Sinks
  • Integrated appliances
  • Adhered floor finishes
  • Door furniture
  • Built-in furniture, including proprietary reception desks, worktops
  • Built in wardrobes/ cupboards/ shelf units (e.g. if they use a wall to form one of their sides and would thus be incomplete if they were removed)
  • Wall paintings
  • Plants and shrubs [rooted] in land belonging to the property.

Fittings:

A chattel or “fitting” is defined as an asset, which is tangible and moveable, is free standing or hung by screws, nails or hooks. A chattel may become a fixture if it is fixed to a building or land. For example, before it is installed in a building as part of a central heating system, a central heating radiator is a chattel. Once installed, it becomes a fixture.

  • Paintings or mirrors that are not bolted to the wall but hung or screwed
  • Lampshades
  • Television aerials and satellite dishes
  • Demountable partition systems
  • Telephone systems
  • CCTV systems
  • Edge-fitted and loose-laid carpets
  • Blinds, curtains and curtain rails
  • Paintings or mirrors that are not bolted but hung or screwed to a wall
  • Notice boards
  • Plumbed-in/ connected but free-standing equipment (e.g. commercial catering equipment, laboratory equipment)
  • Free-standing ovens, refrigerators, washing machines and other white goods
  • Lockers, changing room furniture etc.
  • Beds/sofas and other free standing items of furniture or equipment
  • Computers and other IT equipment
  • Potted plants and shrubs (in containers)

The courts have developed two tests for determining whether an asset is a fixture or a chattel:

  1. The method and degree of annexation
  2. The object and purpose of annexation.

The first test is not conclusive. Some degree of physical affixation is required before a chattel becomes a fixture. If the asset cannot be removed without serious damage to, or destruction of, the building or land, that is strong evidence that it is a fixture. But it is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition.

The second test is now accorded greater significance by the courts than the first. The courts look at the purpose and intention of the asset and its affixation. If, when viewed objectively, it is intended to be permanent and effect a lasting improvement to the property, the asset is a fixture. If the attachment is temporary and is no more than is necessary for the asset to be used and enjoyed, the asset remains a chattel.

It is often the “non” legal matters that can cause the biggest delays and upset in the conveyancing process. The Buyers and Sellers of a property cannot agree on what should and should not be included in the purchase price and on what basis offers to buy the property were made and exchange of contracts is consequently delayed whilst the wrangling over fridge freezers and the like is resolved. Worse still, on the day of completion the purchasers move in only to discover items that they thought were being taken have been left behind (often because of the pure difficulty of removal) or vice versa.

When viewing a property it is not always clear what it is to be included and often the first time the matter is addressed is when the fixtures and fittings form completed by the Sellers is supplied as part of the conveyancing process. By this time most people are focusing on kitchen appliances and the bigger picture generally and inclusion of other items can be overlooked. It is only then that the importance of the distinction between a “fixture” and a “fitting” becomes apparent as their classification directly relates to their inclusion or exclusion from the sale and consequently the redress if any, available to the aggrieved party.

In the absence of express agreement, there are legal presumptions that provide guidance as to the distinction between fixtures and fittings and this focus on the degree and purpose of annexation. “Fixtures” are generally items which are attached to and form part of the property, ie boilers, radiators, fitted units etc and therefore are included as part of the property unless expressly excluded.

Alternatively a “fitting” or “chattel” does not form part of the property, for example carpets and free standing furniture and these are not generally included unless expressly agreed. Unfortunately in the absence of agreement between the parties, whilst these legal presumptions exist, their application in practice is far from clear cut and case law has been required to settle disputes over items such as kitchen appliances, wood flooring, garden ornaments and greenhouses to name but a few and the cost of resolving an issue relating to such matters quite often proves more costly than the subject matter of the dispute !

Once buyers and sellers have agreed the chattels included in a sale, it is important to remember that the contract for the same takes effect as a contract for the sale of goods and as such ownership passes on completion and the items must be transferred in the same condition as they were at exchange ie if they were working /undamaged on exchange then they should be working/undamaged on completion. Secondly, that the seller must make good any damage caused to the property following removal of an excluded item. In order to alleviate some of these difficulties a fixtures fittings and contents form should always be completed and annexed to the Contract. This is not a very substantive form and is best completed on an inspection of the property including the garden, rather than from memory, so as to ensure that any additional items are referred to where appropriate. If you are unsure as to whether an item is deemed to be included or excluded then please speak to your Solicitor for advice and ensure that the item is accounted for – it will save an awful lot of time, aggravation and cost in the long run!

Credits: Rebecca Bozier,Neil Storkes

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