The difference between chattels and fixtures may be an obscure legal point – but it is one that can be vitally important to property buyers.
In simple terms, chattels are things that the vendor is allowed to remove from the property whilst fixtures are part of the property and are expected to be transferred to the purchaser. A chattel is something that can be picked up and removed (like a dining room table) whilst a fixture is something that is fixed to the property and is not generally expected to be portable – like built in wardrobes.
The difficulty comes when you get to items like dishwashers or beds that are partially built in that are harder to categorise.
The standard Victorian Contract of Sale often doesn’t help. Sometimes the list of chattels is simply blank or the common formula of “all window furnishings, fixed floor coverings and electric light fittings” is inserted.
The solution is to ensure that any larger items that you consider are to be included in the sale are specifically listed in the Particulars of Sale page in the Contract. Equally, any larger items that the Vendor intends to remove should also be clearly specified. This will provide clarity and minimise the possibility of misunderstandings later on.
In this context it is worth remembering that verbal promises made by the estate agent are both hard to prove and also hard to enforce against vendors – unless they are in writing and included in the contract.