Chattels and Fixtures Defined

When buying Christchurch real estate, it is important to understand the difference between chattels and fixtures when there is a transfer of ownership. If you are ever unsure, check with your Christchurch real estate agent, before going through the house buying process.

Chattels are considered items of personal property, that were never intended to be fixed to the house and can be removed without causing damage to the property. Any chattels that are fixed to the land become part of the land and are then known as fixtures. This is expressed in the Latin maxim quicquid plantatur solo, solo credit (whatever is attached to the soil becomes part of it).

A standard chattels list comprises of (but no limited to):

  • Stove
  • Fixed floor coverings
  • Blinds, curtains and drapes
  • Light fixtures
  • Dishwasher
  • TV Aerial
  • Whiteware

In some cases chattels are included in the sale of real estate depending on the Agreement for Sale and Purchase, so it’s important to ask what chattels would remain in the house in a transfer of ownership.

At the most basic level, a fixture is something that is attached to the land and therefore when the land is sold, the title to the land will also include all fixtures. A fixture will always belong to the land owner, whereas chattels may belong to another. Any items that are fixtures will belong to the transferee, and ownership of fixtures transfers as soon as the contract of sale is binding. The seller can no longer remove any fixtures from the property.

A standard list of fixtures includes (but not limited to):

  • Garage
  • Carport
  • Gazebo
  • Garden Shed
  • Swimming Pool
  • Spa Pool

However these may be removed before settlement if expressly stated in any agreement.

It may seem straight forward, but you should always confirm with your Christchurch real estate agent prior to purchasing property– there can be loop holes and shades of grey when it comes to defining chattels and fixtures.

A great test of whether something is a chattel or a fixture is by determining whether it has been fixed with the intention that it shall remain in position permanently or if it has been fixed with the intent that it shall remain in position only for a set amount of time.

Intent is particularly relevant in Christchurch where furniture that would normally be freestanding is attached to the wall to stop it falling over in an earthquake.