Home buyer’s do’s and don’ts: Identifying chattel and fixture

identifying a chattel and fixture
Photo: Paha_L via Bigstock

There are many conveyancing terms being tossed around the world of real estate, most especially in Brisbane or Queensland’s conveyancing process. Although conveyancing firms are not really expecting you to learn every single one of them, it would be helpful as a home buyer to know some key terms.

Your conveyancing firm in Queensland will be the one legally in charge of teaching you some of these terms. Though it would be helpful to get a bit of a background and review for the basic understanding of what will be discussed.

To get to know more of the most commonly used terms in conveyancing process, we are here to break down the difference between a chattels and fixtures — and how it will affect your case.

The Difference between a Chattel and Fixture

Chattels and fixtures are among one of the common terms you’ll begin to encounter, especially if you’re buying a new home. These two terms will play an integral part in fulfilling your purchase and the completion of every item stored in the property.

Fixtures

According to the general law, a fixture can be defined as “an article which was once chattel, but which has now become a part of the land,” or now “permanently attached or fixed to real property”.

In layman’s terms, fixtures are items developed to be a part of the property. As what “fix” in fixture suggests, the specific furniture is fixed in place permanently.

The common law’s rule of thumb is: any items attached to the property becomes a part of the said property. This phrase is derived from the Latin maxim: quicquid plantatur solo, solo credit (whatever is attached to the soil becomes a part of it).

Fixtures are the certain items that will be left in closing — and the new renters will expect upon arrival.

Chattels

Chattels, on the other hand, are “item of tangible movable or immovable property except for real estate and things (such as buildings) connected with real property” according to the Merriam-webster definition.

Unlike fixtures, chattels are typically the personal properties bought by renters and will usually be included with their move out. Chattels can span from house decorations to furniture, appliances to wall decors whereas fixtures can be the built-in stoves, wallpapers, water heaters, plumbing system, etc.

As the saying goes, “If it takes a tool to remove it, consider it a fixture” — but it is also worth noting this is just a generic representation of what a chattel and fixture usually is. Most of which will still depend on your new property deal, alongside your conveyancing process’ case.

Throughout the conveyancing process, you and your seller will encounter misunderstandings of what the term chattels and fixtures cover.

Appliances such as dishwashers, built-in microwaves, and stoves are usually fixtures — but as mentioned, your seller might have a different understanding and could possibly exclude these from the items you will expect upon moving in.

Given that you now know the difference between a chattel and fixture, as well as your buyer rights on what items to expect, we listed down the Dos and Don’ts to get you through this complicated buying process.

This checklist can help you identify which is a chattel and fixture, level with your seller, and to get the most out of your consumer rights.

Home buyers Dos and Don’t: Identifying Chattel and Fixture

  1. DO: ask for a pre-closing visit 

    Try to include in your agreement a clause that favors you a pre-closing visit. Use this visit to monitor and verify every single fixture that should be left and therefore you should expect upon moving in.

  2. DO: monitor every detail upon inspection 

    During your first home inspection, ask permission to cover every detail by taking a photo of all fixtures (alongside the appliances’ serial number, if any). This can help you track every item upon moving in. If some are found missing/replaced, ask your conveyancer or seller for information

  3. DON’T: Leave It To Chance 

    Ask your seller if it’s okay to take photos of every fixture in the house. Include a photo of the appliance serial numbers. Having a solid proof or reference is much better than simply assuming that all furniture from your inspection will remain. Do this only with their approval.

  1. DO: Take The Effort To Communicate

    Communication is the key to a smooth conveyancing process. This even extends to closing on your business deal with the seller. The only way to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings is a clear, solid communication with your seller. Do not hesitate to talk to each other face-to-face, if it’s what it takes to settle things out.

  1. DON’T: Hesitate To Ask Questions

    A clear communication also means open discussion about everything regarding your conveyancing process. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to your seller, and even to your conveyancer. It’s best to get the answers you’re looking for directly from authorities instead of researching on the internet of the possible answers.

  1. DO: Consider The Conditions of all Chattels and Fixtures

    Look for the conditions of all chattels and fixtures upon moving in to guarantee their top quality. Typically, sellers will assure that all chattels and fixtures will be on their “good working condition” upon renting. But this doesn’t guarantee any form of warranty over a period of time. Also, include their conditions on your list.

Determining Chattels and Fixtures may seem easy, but remember that identifying such can sometimes be subjective to people. Always consider what your seller and conveyancer might have to say before making the final call of what you should expect.