What are the differences between fixtures and chattels? Chattels are frequently referred to as fittings but the term fitting has no meaning in the legal context. A fixture is deemed to form part of the land or building. A chattel retains its independence and can be removed. A chattel does not pass onto the purchaser when the land or building is sold.

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There are two basic tests to distinguish a fixture from a chattel:

Degree of annexation

This depends upon how firmly an object is fastened or fixed to a property. The greater the degree of annexation or physical connection the more likely an object is to be a fixture.

Removability

How easy is it to remove the object? The easier it is to remove the more likely it is to be a chattel.

Legal advice

As it is difficult to distinguish clearly between fixtures and chattels, parties involved in property and land sale transactions are advised to seek independent legal advice. This will help them avoid misunderstandings and problems regarding Stamp Duty, Land Tax Duty, Corporation Tax and Capital Allowance payments, and claims for relief.

The courts are frequently asked to clarify what are fixtures and chattels and there are numerous cases defining these terms in context. Here are few examples of what the courts have deemed to be fixtures and chattels.   

Fixtures

Chattels

Central heating

Pictures

Bath

Fridge

Toilet

Cooker

Bungalow

Garden shed

Block of stones forming a dry stone wall

Block of stones in builders merchant yard

It is important to establish which fixtures belong to a landlord ('landlord's fixtures') and which belong to the tenant ('tenant's fixtures'). This distinction has implications for all aspects of landlord and tenant law, including which party is responsible for repairs, and can lead to disputes at rent review, lease renewals and in dilapidations claims.

Tenants can remove their fixtures installed for business or ornamental purposes on condition that they make good any damage arising from their removal. 

Disputes over whether works of arts are fixtures or chattels are common. The answer depends on the degree of annexation of the item to the building (e.g. is a painting fixed to the wall or can it be removed).


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