What Is Considered A Fixture In Property Law?

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Home > Blog > What Is Considered A Fixture In Property Law?

If you are buying or selling a property, you may come across the word ‘fixture’. This term, and what it represents in the course of buying or selling a property, can be incredibly important, and understanding what it covers can help alleviate the risk of dispute in your property transaction.

Fixtures include any object that is fixed to a property or the land it is situated on by any means excluding its weight. An example of this could be a light fitting which is bolted to a ceiling. Conversely, a stone outdoor table, despite being very heavy, may not be considered a fixture.

Why do fixtures play an important role in property law?

Items regarded as fixtures can sometimes be the ‘make or break’ point of someone agreeing to purchase a property or offering more money for the property than they would have if the fixture was not included in the sale. For example, a home with top-of-the-range kitchen appliances or a unique chandelier could be the reason a person ultimately decides to go ahead with the purchase. If that element was removed when the owner moved out, the buyer would not be left with the aspect of the property that moved them to agree to its purchase.

Why might a dispute arise over a fixture during a property transaction?

Even if the item was not the deciding factor in the purchase, it may be an issue of convenience or aesthetics and its omission from the sale could lead to a dispute.

Although uncommon, a dispute may arise over a fixture being removed prior to settlement. The following scenarios may also give rise to a dispute:

  • the buyer assumed an item on the property was a fixture without confirming as such;
  • the vendor omitted to list an item that was assumed by the buyer to be a fixture as an exclusion;
  • the vendor damaged or otherwise made the fixture unavailable to the buyer at settlement.

How can I avoid a dispute over a fixture when I buy or sell a property?

The most simple way to avoid a dispute over a fixture is to ensure that a detailed agreement is reviewed and executed by both parties. Parties to transactions that involve properties where the inclusions and exclusions may be ambiguous should carefully discuss each item in question for the avoidance of doubt, and clarify what is and is not included in the sale of the property so neither party is taken by surprise at settlement.

As a seller, you should take note of any items in your home that you intend to take with you when you move and consider whether these might be regarded as a fixture. For example, if you are particularly attached to your wine fridge or a wall sconce, you should inform your lawyer or conveyancer so they can be sure to include the item as an exclusion on the contract of sale.

As a buyer, you should be clear about your non-negotiables when purchasing a property. If the home you inspect includes everything on your list, cross-check it with the inclusions on the contract to ensure they form part of the transaction. If an item you saw during an inspection is not mentioned in the contract (i.e. it is missing from both the inclusions and exclusions), you should enquire about it to gain clarity and confirm where you will stand post-settlement.

It is also possible to negotiate that an item is included (or excluded if you do not want to deal with it post-settlement). For example, if there is an exclusion listed on the contract that you would like included, you are within your rights to offer more money for it to be included in the sale.

How would a court decide who is right in a dispute over a fixture?

If a dispute does arise which cannot be resolved between the parties, it may escalate. In this case, the court will consider the original intention for the item whether it was intended that the item form part of the property, and the degree to which it is attached to the property.

If you are buying or selling a property and want to avoid a dispute over what is included in the sale, you should seek advice from an experienced conveyancer in Cairns who can assist you in completing a smooth transaction.