Chattels vs Fixtures – What’s the Difference?

You’ve heard the expression “fixtures and chattels” on HGTV or from your real estate agent. 

But do you really know what you’re agreeing to when you sign the offer to purchase? It’s important to determine if an item is a fixture or a chattel before you take final possession, or you could be sadly disappointed.

Here’s a simple way of deciding what type of property are fixtures vs chattels.

Gorgeous house interior and set up

Quick Read

What are chattels vs fixtures

What are considered chattels

Examples of a chattel vs fixture in Ontario

How to request chattels vs fixtures in offers

How You Know It’s a Fixture

Fixtures are permanently, or so it seems, fixed in place. Fixtures typically belong to the property buyer, but not necessarily. Like the home or condo itself and land they’re on, fixtures are real property. Unless specifically excluded, fixtures are assumed to go with the land. More about that later. 

What is a Chattel Asset?

To give an example, think of chattels as anything the seller can take. Chattels are considered personal property. They’re neither land nor fixtures. Unless you care to negotiate, books, a bed, couch, or computer all belong to the owner. If it’s plugged in or can be moved, it may not be there when you arrive.

What if it’s affixed, but could be removed? Now that’s an interesting dilemma. The onus is on you and the seller to work it out before you take possession.

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Who Owns It

Chandelier vs Lampshade

A crystal chandelier dangling over the dining room table is an example of a fixture. If it’s hard wired into the ceiling, it may be a permanent fixture. But a stained glass Tiffany lampshade in the dining nook, the one with the exposed electrical cord that plugs into an outlet under the bay window, is a chattel.

Unless you request the lampshade, the seller is free to take it because it’s not tied down. They could also take the chandelier, even though it’s a fixture, if they say so in the agreement of purchase and sale.

Picture your surprise, if the first day you walk into your home, lighting fixtures you thought you owned are missing. Light up your kitchen with ‘Make It Right’ Mike Holmes.

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Appliances vs Cupboards

Most kitchens come with appliances, some worth thousands. 

But without explicit instructions in your offer to purchase, appliances like fridges and washer/dryer combos can be gone when you get there. They’re chattels because they can be unplugged and moved.

Sellers are unlikely to make off with the kitchen cupboards. But it’s common practice in Europe. You don’t need that added expense. Protect your pocketbook when you hire a home contractor.

Amend your offer to purchase after it’s signed.

Fence vs Shed

How about that handy garden shed in your new backyard? Or the fence — most owners wouldn’t go to all the trouble of taking it down, would they? 

Garden sheds are mobile and easily relocated. Unless the agreement of purchase and sale states otherwise, the owner has every right to take it. Garden sheds and other structures that need permits in Toronto

The fence and two-car garage stay behind. They’re real property and go with the land. 

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Trees vs Shrubs

Now that’s a bit different. 

Trees belong to whoever has legal “domain”. Boulevard trees belong to the municipality, of course. Trees on a property you buy may be yours or your neighbours’. It depends where they took root.

Assuming that spectacular mountain ash that reaches over your next door neighbour’s fence is yours can be a mistake. If the roots are on their property, your neighbour could demand you take it down or do significant damage to it.

Who owns the trees in your backyard?

Shrubs, flowers and succulents can put on a flashy show when you tour the perfect home. But beware, the seller could uproot them, leaving you with a walkway of shame.

If you’re concerned about who owns the trees in your backyard, ask an arborist.  Or let Axess Law’s real estate lawyers in Ottawa and Greater Toronto advise you, before you buy. 

Requesting Chattels vs Fixtures

You remember Eaton’s. Legal ideas about chattels and fixtures go back to a 1902 Ontario court ruling involving the popular Toronto department store. 

It goes like this:

  1. Articles not attached to land by their own weight are not part of it, unless the “circumstances” show they are intended to be.
  2. Articles affixed to the land even slightly are part of the land, unless the circumstances show they are supposed to be chattels.
  3. The circumstances must show what is annexed or joined to the land and the degree to which it is joined.
  4. It must be obvious for all to see.
  5. Your intention in “affixing the article to the soil” is presumed by the degree and object of the annexation. Not by your words.

Confused yet?

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Why You Need a Real Estate Lawyer

No need to be stressed when you buy real estate in Ontario. Axess Law’s real estate lawyers (Ontario) go over your offer to purchase in detail, before or after you sign, to prevent confusion over what the seller plans to take or leave. We add inclusions and exclusions that may be missing to distinguish fixtures and chattels.

Say you’ve taken a liking to the Tiffany lampshade. Axess Law “includes” it in the chattels by writing that into the agreement of purchase and sale. Likewise, our licensed real estate lawyers ensure the seller “excludes” the crystal chandelier.

Inclusions and exclusions are clauses that state what will and won’t go with the land and home. Without clear direction in your contract, you could be out fixtures you thought came with your home.

Your Axess Law real estate lawyer (Toronto, Greater Toronto Area or Ottawa) negotiates with the seller’s lawyer to protect your financial interests.

Fixing Contract Mistakes

You may already have signed, but that doesn’t mean we can’t fix it. Axess Law recommends correcting contract errors or exclusions you disagree with by having your real estate agent prepare a form 120. Errors or exclusions don’t have to hold you back when it comes to getting the land and property you want.

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Affordable Real Estate Lawyers, Anywhere You Are 

Access lawyers for less in Greater Toronto Area, Ottawa, or anywhere in Ontario when you buy, sell, or transfer property. Axess Law’s flat fee real estate lawyers are affordable, and our rates are all inclusive (excluding taxes, disbursements, and third-party charges). Axess Law offers you only the legal services you absolutely need. Your final invoice includes no surprises or hidden charges. Your itemized statement of adjustments is explained when we deliver it, and we answer any questions you have about it. 

Hire a real estate lawyer anywhere in Ontario.  

Book Video Call Appointments Online

When you’re pressed for time, Axess Law real estate lawyers can meet with you in the comfort of your home or office all with remote virtual video software. Whether it’s your first contract or amended agreement of purchase and sale, our virtual lawyers go through it with you. 

Experienced Axess Law real estate lawyers are available to meet with you 7 days a week, anywhere in Ontario. Book a virtual meeting online with our easy online booking form or call our 647-479-0118 lawyer line (toll free to 1-877-522-9377).

In Person Appointments, Day or Evening

We get you might prefer to meet in person. Axess Law locations in Ottawa and Greater Toronto Area are open for business, with day or evening appointments. We have onsite parking and easy transit access. Call or go online today to make your appointment.

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