Fixtures or Chattels: What are the Differences?
Tuesday Jul 07th, 2020
What's included in the purchase price? Sellers and Buyers equally want to know - of course the house itself, the roof, the furnace, the central air conditioning, the plumbing and the electrical.... but then come the often confusing words "Fixtures and Chattels". And that's where it can get a little murky. What exactly are these?
A 'chattel' is a moveable possession of personal property that can be removed without damaging the property. Normally, chattels are deemed to be excluded from the purchase price unless they are specifically included in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale (APS). Conversely, a 'fixture' is normally included in the purchase price unless the APS excludes it.
Generally speaking, the law maintains that 'fixtures' remain with the property and chattels are items that are removed by the Seller before closing. Refrigerators, Stoves, Range Hoods, Microwave Ovens, Dishwashers, Washers & Dryers, Electric Light Fixtures, Central Vacuum & Equipment, Window Coverings are all known as fixtures and normally are included in the purchase price. However, the Seller may have a favourite DIning Room chandelier or are sentimental about the draperies in their son's or daughter's bedroom, maybe even Bathroom mirrors and will want to exclude/take those items with them. So it's very important, that these are all detailed in the Agreement of Purchase & Sale to avoid disputes that can lead to additional costs for either the Buyer or the Seller. Specifically, I ensure that even the brand name/model type of every appliance is in the APS so that the Buyer actually receives what they've seen and believed they've purchased. The last thing we want is the Stainless Steel Refrigerator to replaced with another one and it's not what we expected.
In some cases, depending on the item, it isn't clear whether the item is a chattel or a fixture. For instance, a wall-mounted TV's and the brackets attaching it to the wall or the drapery rods & hardware holding window coverings can be ambiguous. The brackets are screwed into to the wall while the televisionand window coverings can easily be removed. Similarly, bathroom mirrors, book shelves affixed to any walls and backyard swing sets secured to the ground can also be unclear. The lesson is to clearly state, in writing, in the APS, what is staying and what isn't, so there aren't any surprises. The problem often arises after closing when the Buyer moves in and discovers an item, that they believed was included in the purchase price, has been removed by the Seller. No one wants a closing delay or something that could even lead to litigation.
So, to avoid any doubt at all, I always spell it out in detail to protect all my Sellers and my Buyers.