The Difference Between Fixtures and Chattels

Written by on Friday December 14, 2018

When transferring property from a seller to a buyer, the items included in the purchase are not always clear. This is why every piece of property is deemed as either a fixture or a chattel. A property lawyer should explain the difference between these two, since they are commonly listed in the terms of the agreement and buying/selling documents. If this isn’t clear, the buyer may be very disappointed to find that an item they expected to be included in the home is missing. Let’s take a look at the difference between fixtures and chattels:




In simplest terms, fixtures are items that are attached to the land or property a buyer is purchasing. These are immobile and cannot be removed from the property without causing damage. As a result, they would be included in the purchase of a property. While it may sound like it would be obvious to tell which items are fixtures and which are not, you’d be surprised. Sometimes, courts can consider something a chattel, even though it appeared to be a fixture to the buyer or seller. To illustrate, the seats in a home theater, despite being securely bolted to the basement floor, can be labeled as a chattel by a court. This can be confusing since it contradicts the definition of a fixture.




On the other hand, chattels are items that are not attached to a land or property and can be moved around. These items include such things as small appliances, furniture, and electronics. These items cannot be built-in to the home. Otherwise, they would be considered fixtures, since they would require professional assistance to be removed and could be damage the home upon removal. Basically, they are the personal belongings of the owner, so they would not be included in the buyer’s purchase of the home.


The best way to prevent any surprise exclusions of items in the purchase of a home is to find out the exact items that the seller has agreed to sell. In the home buying process, it is best to not assume anything.


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