A chattel is a piece of movable property such as a motor vehicle, furniture, jewellery etc. A fixture is anything that was once merely a chattel but has been fixed to the land. If a chattel is “affixed to the soil [it] becomes part of the soil” and therefore is the property of the landowner.
This rule is relevant to the sale of land where the seller wants to retain assets on the land and leases where the tenant fixes a chattel to the land and then wants to take it with them when the lease expires.
If the item is only ‘fixed’ to the ground by virtue of its own weight, it is not a fixture.
There must be some actual affixation of the item to the ground that shows an objective intention to tie the object there with permanence.
In other words, a court will look at the objective circumstances of the chattel’s introduction on the land, how it is fixed to the land, the common intention of the parties and the agreed terms between them on the topic, if any.
Therefore, to avoid messy arguments about circumstances, including ‘intent’, it is useful to make clear in sale contracts or leases what the obligations of the parties are on sale or the end of a lease.
For further information please contact Peter on 8362 6400 or email Peter Jakobsen. Join our mailing list to receive updates and advice on current issues.