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Chattels and Fixtures

Chattels and Fixtures:

Chattels are items of personal property that are often referred to as "fitting" property instead of "real" property. Meaning, property that is "unattached" to the land in question. It is a general principle in land law that when chattels are physically attached to the land or annexed to the land, unless specifically stated in special conditions of the sale, they become part of the land which are known as Fixtures. (Holland v Hodgson [1872])

It is important to distinguish between chattels and fixtures because they affect ownership rights of the specific items. Any items that are fixtures belong to the transferee and once there is a sale of land, the ownership of those fixtures transfer as soon as the contract of sale is binding. Meaning, the seller can no longer remove these items from the property.

The situation however is different when a tenant attaches his or her own items or those to the property. When a leaseholder or tenant is leaving a property, they may remove their fixtures but they must be removed before the end of the tenancy. These are known as "tenant fixtures". ( Holland v Hodgson [1872], Climie v Wood [1869]).

To determine physical attachment, the courts have developed certain tests to determine whether an item is a chattel or a fixture. These tests are otherwise known as:

1. The degree of annexation test

· The more securely the object is fixed to the property and the more damage that could be caused by its removal, the more likely it would be a fixture.

2. The purpose of annexation test

· If an object can be removed without any significant physical disturbance or damage and it has no purpose to the land then it can remain a chattel

3. The part and parcel test

· This test was introduced, as the first two caused problems when trying to determine if the object was a chattel or a fixture

· If the item has become "part and parcel" of the land it is a fixture. Meaning, if there is no way to remove the object from the land without for example demolishing it, it is part of the land. Further, there should be no fixtures removed unless these are specified in the contract of sale.

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