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Is that a chattel or a fixture on your land?

Sponsored feature | Christian Firmin, solicitor, HCR Hewitsons

Christian Firmin, solicitor, HCR Hewitsons (52707441)
Christian Firmin, solicitor, HCR Hewitsons (52707441)

What is the difference between a chattel and a fixture, why should it concern people selling or buying land, and why is it important?

Chattels are property that is moveable and unattached to the land; fixtures are items fixed to the land or buildings, so that they form part and parcel of the land. The first are generally considered to be personal to their owner, but fixtures form part and parcel of the land being bought or sold.

This was illustrated by a recent dispute between Royal Parks Limited, a charity created by the Crown to carry out management of Hyde Park, and Bluebirds Boats Limited, which ran boating facilities on the Serpentine for many years.

The question was whether the Serpentine’s boathouse had become a fixture (part and parcel of the land), so was owned by the Crown (despite Bluebird Boats having built it), or whether the boathouse was a chattel, owned by the defendant, who could then remove it when their concession ended.

To make that decision, the judge considered the extent to which the boathouse was connected to the land, and the extent to which the boathouse formed part of the land. The purpose of the boathouse, its design and construction, as a permanent enhancement to the land, was also considered.

The judge found in favour of the claimant and ruled that the boathouse was a permanent fixture and provided a permanent enhancement to the land. It was part and parcel of the land and as such it was owned by the Crown.

Whether items are chattels or fixtures is something that buyers and sellers alike should be aware of; the consequences of getting it wrong can be costly.

For example, if a seller leaves chattels without permission on land after it has been sold, the buyer could potentially sue the seller for damages for failing to give vacant possession.

Whether you are buying land or selling it, make sure that you know from the outset whether structures, machinery or any other items situated on the land, are chattels or fixtures; you will then be able to avoid this kind of dispute and make sure that ownership is set out in the contract.

Contact Christian Firmin at cfirmin@hcrlaw.com or on 01223 532768.

Visit hcrlaw.com.

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