March 29, 2023

Chattels vs. Fixtures: What is the difference, with examples

If you’re buying or selling property in Queensland, you are probably hearing a lot of unfamiliar legal jargon. ‘Chattels’ and ‘fixtures’ are just two of the words that might have you scratching your head.

As your conveyancers, it is our job to demystify the conveyancing process so you are completely clear about your rights and obligations as your contract progresses.

The starting point is that fixtures are items that are affixed to the property and remain with the property (i.e., they are included in the contract of sale) unless they are specifically excluded, and chattels are not affixed to the property and are not included in the contract of sale, unless they are specifically included.

While that might sound like a clear enough distinction, the above general rule can be difficult to apply, as not all items fit easily into one category or the other. If you are unsure about whether a particular item is a chattel or a fixture, you should seek legal advice.

For more general information about the difference between chattels and fixtures, read on!

What Are Chattels?

‘Chattel’ refers to an item of tangible movable personal property not affixed to the land.

Common examples of chattels include;

  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Fridges
  • Pot plants

As a general rule, chattels are excluded from the sale; if you are buying a property and you want them to be included, you should have the chattels listed as ‘included chattels’ in the contract.

What Are Fixtures?

A fixture is an item that is (more or less) permanently fixed to the property, and it will usually be fixed to the property by more than just its own weight.

Examples of typical fixtures include;

  • Oven
  • Stove
  • Hot water system
  • Fixed floor coverings
  • In-ground plants
  • Clothes lines
  • Solar panels

Fixtures form part of the property that is sold to the buyer, unless they are specifically excluded.

What If I’m Not Sure?

Although the difference between chattels and fixtures is relatively easy to understand in theory, in practice things can get tricky, and it is not uncommon for Buyers and Sellers to come into conflict over whether or not a certain item is included in the sale.

It is possible for an item to be considered a fixture in one case, but not in another. For example, a basketball hoop attached to a garage wall might be considered a chattel, whereas basketball poles cemented into a court would be considered fixtures.

Common examples of where there is a grey area include;

  • BBQ/Gas bottle
  • Light fittings
  • Curtain rods/curtains
  • Light fittings

It is always best to include items as either excluded fixtures or included chattels in the contract of sale to avoid uncertainty and disputes down the line.

What Does The Law Say?

When considering whether an item is a chattel or a fixture, a court would consider the following;

  1. The degree of annexation – how and to what extent the item is fixed to the land
  2. The purpose of annexation – for what purpose was the item fixed to the land?

There are other considerations as well including;

  • How much damage would be caused to the property if the item was removed
  • The length of time the item was intended to remain in position
  • Whether it is common practice to remove items of that nature.

These general rules can be difficult to apply, so it is important to seek legal advice if you are not sure.

What Does That Mean For My Sale Or Purchase?

If you wish certain chattels remain with the property (i.e., be included in the contract of sale) these should be clearly listed on the contract.

If there are fixtures you wish to remove from the property, these should also be listed in the contract of sale.

It is important to note that the Seller must bear the cost or rectify any damage caused by removing excluded fixtures.

More Questions?

If you have any questions about chattels and fixtures, or any other aspect of property law, contact one of our friendly, expert conveyancing solicitors today.

We also offer free pre-contract reviews, so if you would like us to look over your contract prior to signing, we are happy to do it!

The above is not legal advice and is general information only.