I’m tired of chattels and fixtures, not to sound like I’m complaining, but why has 2010 been the year where every 4th transaction seems to hiccough over what buyers and sellers perceive to be chattels and fixtures included/excluded in the sale? Traditionally, I tell sellers when I take a listing that I’m a Realtor, and sell “real property” and not in the used furniture racket. “If you’re going to include chattels”, I tell our clients, “keep it simple” – fridge, stove, washer and dryer are simple to understand to both parties of the sale, but when you start stating “all chattels included”, then you start venturing into murky waters.
For those who are unsure as to the definitions of each, here goes my stock answer to buyer and sellers:
Fixtures – Generally refers to anything that is glued, screwed, or otherwise permanently attached to the property or improvements thereto. Fixtures are deemed included in a sale unless expressly excluded.
Example of fixtures include the following:
- Structures like garden sheds
- Satellite dishes screwed into the side of house
- Clothes lines
- Blinds & Curtain Rods
- Woodstoves, and furnaces
- Trees and garden plants in the ground
- Hot water tanks
- Light fixtures (including grandma’s chandelier in the dining room)
- Central vacuum
Chattels – Are all other items not affixed to the house (i.e. – they are not fixtures). They are not included in a sale unless the Agreement of Purchase and Sale specifically provides so.
Example of chattels include the following:
- White goods (fridge, stoves, washers, etc.)
- Satellite receivers
- Space heaters
- Portable space heaters
- Pots, pan, knives, forks, spoons, plates, bowls, and pretty well everything else in a kitchen that isn’t bolted down
- Boats, outboard motors, trailers, canoes
- Portable light fixtures
- Swim rafts. Since they are not attached to the property (like a dock is), I prefer to treat them as a chattel to avoid any problems.
- Hoses and attachments for the central vacuum system
Such items as swim rafts or built-in appliance magnify the fact that there are many grey areas when it comes to our otherwise convenient chattel/fixture definitions. My mantra is, “when in doubt, make sure to spell out.”
The same when it comes to defining what a “personal effect” is. Ask five different people and you will get five different answers. This can be problematic when you have an “all chattels save and accept personal effects”, or something along those lines in an Offer.
In my opinion, the best way to deal with chattels and fixtures is to itemize all chattels included, and fixtures excluded, in the Agreement of Purchase and Sale. It is not difficult to compile at the time a listing is taken or an offer is drafted. It is always nice to be surprised around the time of your birthday, but sleeping on the floor on the first night spent at your new cottage because a seller deemed the beds as “personal effects”, well…that’s anther matter.