What is a chattel and what is a fixture in a home sale?

What is a chattel and what is a fixture in a home sale?

by | May 27, 2024 | Real Estate Law

Picture this: A client selling their home has removed workbenches from their garage to get ready for their big move. When the buyers did their final walk-through one month before their closing date, they noticed that the workbenches they originally saw when they purchased the house had been removed.

Who is right? The sellers who removed the benches or the buyers who thought the benches were a part of the house they have not yet taken possession of?

Let’s get to the definitions of a chattel and fixture in a real estate deal.

What is the difference between a chattel and a fixture?

A chattel is a piece of personal property not permanently affixed to the house. A chattel is movable and will not damage the house or land if it is removed.

As the buyer, if you are interested in a chattel, this must be specifically laid out in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. Examples of chattels include:

  • Furniture
  • Appliances
  • Lawnmower
  • Artwork

A fixture is an item within the house or land that needs to be removed with tools. If a fixture is removed it will likely cause damage to the house or land. Examples of fixtures include:

  • Light fixtures
  • Built-in shelving
  • Fireplace
  • Mirrors

There are many grey items when it comes to chattels and fixtures. Some items aren’t abundantly clear if they are chattels or fixtures.

  • Hot tubs
  • Children’s play structure
  • A garden shed
  • A television mounted to a wall
  • Mirrors
  • Gazebo

The key takeaway here is that whether you are the buyer, or the seller, you must communicate your intentions clearly in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale.

So what about the workbenches?

The buyers did not mention these workbenches in their Agreement of Purchase and Sale and the workbenches were freestanding. The buyer’s realtor contacted the seller’s realtor and asked for the benches to be put back. The sellers refused to do so.

In this situation, the sellers are legally within their rights to take the workbenches because they were not bolted or affixed to the garage.

A few other common examples.

  • If you are selling your home and you plan to take the gazebo on the back deck, then it is best to name this on your house listing. If the gazebo is bolted to the deck, it would be considered a fixture and is legally a part of the house for sale.
  • If you are purchasing a home and you want to keep all the appliances with the home, then name this in your offer. Appliances fall under chattels and although often mentioned in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale to stay with the house, the seller is entitled to keep the appliances unless the buyer specially asks for them.

McMurter & Associates is here to help.

McMurter & Associates has been providing real estate legal services for over 30 years in the Durham Region. If you have any questions about your real estate transaction, we are available Monday to Friday, 9am until 5pm.  Email: info@mcmurter Phone: 905-666-9200