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Chattels and Fixtures - Should I Stay or Should I Go?

I was once witness to an argument over a number of garden gnomes between a vendor and a purchaser.  On the settlement date, the vendor had taken his army of garden gnomes with him (there were hundreds).  When the purchaser arrived at the property, he was devastated since one of the reasons he bought the property, was the garden gnomes. 

The vendor argued that the gnomes were not attached to the land and he could take them, while the purchaser argued that the gnomes were a feature of the property and should have stayed.  As far as I remember, the parties came to an arrangement where about half of the gnomes were returned to the property, and the vendor retained the other half. 

This made me think of the matter of chattels and fixtures. 

One of the issues that can prove problematic in the sale of a house can be misunderstandings between the vendor and purchaser in relation to what stays and what goes on settlement.  Fixtures are items which are attached to the land and remain on the property following a sale.  Chattels are not permanently annexed to the land and upon a sale, they are removed by the vendor and remain his or her property. 

Examples of fixtures are hard-wired air-conditioning units, carports, etc. 

Examples of chattels are portable garden sheds, furniture, etc.

There are clauses in the agreement in which the vendor warrants that the chattels will be in reasonable working order (for a definition of a warranty, please see my previous blog “conditions vs warranties”). 

A good example to demonstrate the difference between and fixture and a chattel is a kitchen cupboard unit: if it is bolted to the wall and hanging above the counter in the kitchen, it is annexed to the property and therefore a fixture.  If the same cupboard unit is simply sitting on the floor, without any attachment to the house and easily removable, it would be classified as a chattel. 

Every standard Agreement for Sale and Purchase contains a list of chattels which are automatically included in the sale.  These include: stove, fixed floor coverings, blinds, curtains and light fittings (fixed floor coverings are fitted carpet and lino). 

But there are a number of items which could classify as both, depending on the way they are annexed to the property: for examples, spa pools (they come in a “plug-and-play” version which could be easily removed), sleep-outs, dishwashers and heat pumps. 

We receive many queries from clients who would like to know whether a particular item is (or was) included in the sale of a property.  The easiest and best way to avoid disappointment or disputes after settlement is to include the particular items in the agreement. 

Discussing the particular items with your real estate agent or lawyer, and mentioning them in the agreement, means everyone is clear on what is included in the sale and what is excluded. 

So if you are in doubt, add it to the Agreement. 

If you have any additional queries about garden gnomes and other potential stumbling blocks in sale and purchase agreements, give us a call. 

Alex Martin is a Lawyer at Law North Limited in Kerikeri.  She can be contacted on (09) 4077099 or .  Feedback and suggestions for future articles is appreciated.

  • Posted By: Alex Martin on Thu, 1st Aug 2019 @ 09:36:02

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