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.
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.
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.
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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.
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.