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By Leanne Spring
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Fixtures and Fittings or Goods and Chattels – what stays and what goes when you buy a property?

key takeaways

Key takeaways

When purchasing a property, it can often be a rollercoaster of excitement and stress.

One frequently overlooked aspect of buying a property relates to fixtures and fittings - what stays with the property and what the sellers can take with them.

There is a considerable amount of confusion regarding these terms, but understanding them can be crucial to a seamless transition.

You’ve just made an offer on your new home or your next investment property and it’s been accepted.

That’s great news, but what actually comes with the property when you settle?

Is it everything that you saw when you inspected the property?

Clearly not – some of the items in the property belonged to the vendor.

You didn’t really expect to get that big plasma TV thrown in, did you?

But what about the dishwasher?

Does it stay or can the seller take it with him?

This is where arguments start – when either the buyer or seller assumes certain items stay or go.

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How do you decide what stays and what goes?

There is a general legal principle that when you buy a property you get a transfer of a title and that gives you a right to the land and anything affixed to it.

Obviously, this includes a dwelling and this extends to anything that is affixed to the dwelling.

I remember one solicitor explaining it to me by saying:

Imagine you took the house and tipped it upside down. Then whatever falls out, doesn’t stay with the house when you take possession.

Whilst simple in form, you get the idea.

In legal terms, there are generally two classes of items in a property: goods or chattels and fixtures or fittings.

Fixtures are items that have been physically 'fixed' to the property and are assumed to be part of it.

  • These typically include items such as light fixtures, built-in wardrobes, kitchen units, central heating systems, or even the garden shed.
  • They are the bit that doesn’t fall out when you tip it upside down are part of the property and are sold with the property.

Goods, on the other hand, are movable items that the vendor can take with them at settlement.

  • They are 'free standing' or easily removable without causing damage to the property. Examples of fittings might be curtains, rugs, free-standing appliances, loose furniture, or movable garden furniture.

But sometimes things aren’t clear

The vendor bought a new dishwasher only a few months ago – it looks built-in, but there really aren’t any screws holding it in place.

Does it stay or does it go?

That’s why when you buy (or sell) a property it’s important to complete the section of the contract of sale concerning goods.

Communication is Key

To avoid any misunderstanding or unpleasant surprises, it is essential to communicate clearly about what is included in the sale from the very beginning.

Sellers should itemize what will stay and what they plan to take with them in an inventory form known as the fixtures and fittings form.

Prospective buyers can then negotiate if there are particular items they want to be included or excluded.

Often there is a section in the contract that will say the sale includes :

All fixed floor covering, light fittings and window furnishing, excluding the garden shed in the back yard.

If there is any doubt about an item ask the selling agent and ensure it is mentioned in the contract, as it is different expectations between the buyer and seller that cause disputes.

I’ve used the example of a dishwasher a few times because this is one of the common areas of dispute.

In general, if the dishwasher is free standing it is good, but if it’s mounted under a bench it’s a fixture and stays.

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Conclusion

Understanding the nuances of fixtures and fittings in the context of property transactions can save a great deal of time, money, and potential frustration for both buyers and sellers.

With clear communication, careful negotiation, and explicit documentation, the process can be streamlined to ensure that everyone is on the same page about what is included in the sale.

So, whether you're a buyer or a seller, always remember - the devil is in the details.

Happy buying and selling!


About Leanne Spring Leanne is a highly experienced Buyers Agent in the Brisbane Real Estate market. Leanne became a passionate lover of property in 2001. Since then, both professionally and personally, she has been involved in all aspects of property including purchasing, negotiating, renovating, and selling.
19 comments

Thanks Michael, I get that. I'm not being particular about the hose reel alone though. As the seller will remove and take this with her, there will be numerous other items she may uninstall with tools and take with her on the same basis. What acti ...Read full version

1 reply

The seller's agent has confirmed the hose reel/housing will be removed and taken by the seller. What's worse is that my solicitor's assessment on this is the hose case is a chattel because the removal of it doesn't cause a significant damage to the ...Read full version

1 reply

Yes it's for a house that I've purchased. I'm sorting out all the items that must stay as per the contract where there is no fixture excluded, and will get these confirmed by the agent/seller prior to the settlement. There's a hose reel (hose housi ...Read full version

1 reply
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