Chattels and Fixtures

November 11, 2019

So you’ve decided to sell?

Let’s clarify what’s allowed to come with you to your new home…

Vendor and buyer disputes, although not commonplace, can occur because of discrepancies in mutual agreement of what should have stayed/gone. The legal terminology that can be found in contracts is chattels – moveable items that are generally left with the property, and fixtures – anything that can’t easily be taken away without causing damage to the property.

This concept can sometimes be hard to grasp because it isn’t always so straight forward, but an easy way to ensure peace of mind that you won’t be tripped up, is to remember that the property is sold in the state that was displayed to buyers unless it specifically says otherwise in the contract of sale.

Therefore, when listing your home it’s important that you decide beforehand what you want to take and what you’re happy to leave behind. Typically, if it’s physically attached to the building it’s expected to stay, so if you have a gorgeous light fitting for example that you just can’t part with, it needs to be classed as a chattel. Express your desires of what you want to keep with your real estate agent so you can have a discussion on whether it’s best to remove it before entering the market or to just to list it as an exclusion in the contract.

Some advice to consider is to not show off any features that you know you will be taking with you, because if your marketing campaign is highlighting fixtures that end up being removed, it could be used in the buyer’s favour. Importantly, if a fixture not excluded in the contract is removed by the vendor, it will be expected that before settlement it is returned or the buyer may make a claim for damages. In a less extreme scenario, where prospective buyers know that something will be taken away, if you remove it or replace it before they see the original they won’t be faced with the thought of having to immediately buy those items (eg. bedroom curtains).

Inevitably there is a slight ‘grey area’ of which some items may be considered either a fixture or chattel such as a dishwasher or pool equipment, so the safest way to ensure there is no complications is to explicitly mention in the contract whether they are an inclusion or exclusion.

Below are some item examples in their typical categories, however when unsure, speak with your agent or conveyance.

What you can’t take when selling your home:

  • Fixed floor coverings
  • Window coverings that are fixed, such as blinds
  • Curtain rods (but not curtains, unless specified in contract)
  • Oven, rangehood and cooktop
  • Built-in dishwashers and microwaves
  • All wired-in light fittings
  • Ceiling fans
  • Wall or ceiling-mounted brackets for televisions and speakers
  • Built-in bookshelves and benches
  • Plants in the ground

What you can take when selling your home:

  • Fridges
  • Freezers
  • Washing machines
  • Clothes dryer
  • Outdoor furniture and garden art, unless secured to the ground
  • Potted plants
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