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When your business moves into a commercial property, you may find that there are already furnishings on your premises. You may also have to provide certain furnishings yourself. It may be unclear what status these items have or what you should do with them during and after your tenancy. These furnishings will likely fall into one of two categories: fixtures or chattels. This article will outline:

  • what fixtures and chattels are; 
  • how you can distinguish between the two; and
  • what your business should do with chattels and fixtures at the end of your commercial tenancy.

What are Chattels and Fixtures?

A chattel refers to a moveable item or personal property that is not permanently attached to your commercial property. Chattels that you may find in your leased premises include:

  • curtains or blinds;
  • printers; and
  • rugs.

The seller or landlord of your premises will likely provide you with a chattels list that accompanies the sale or leasing of your space. 

A fixture refers to an item that has become attached to your premises and has become part of the land or building itself. The following are fixtures that you may find in your leased premises:

  • fitted carpets;
  • seats or tables bolted to the floor; or 
  • fixed electrical wiring. 

If you have any other buildings on your leased property, such as a shed or house, this structure is likely a fixture. 

How Do You Distinguish Between Chattels and Fixtures?

The key distinction between chattels and fixtures is that the latter category refers to items that are attached to, and thus have become part of, your leased premises. However, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish when an item has become part of the land. There are two tests to assist in this distinction. These are the:

  1. degree of the annexation (or attachment) of the item or structure; and
  2. purpose of the annexation of the item or structure.

The Degree of Annexation

To determine whether an item is a chattel or a fixture, you will have to evaluate how attached to your property the item is. If an item is attached to your premises by something other than its own weight, it is likely to be a fixture. If it is only attached to your leased space by its own weight, it will likely be a chattel. 

For example, a seat bolted to the floor of your commercial office space is attached to your premises by more than its own weight. In contrast, a printer is merely resting on your premises by its own weight. 

The Purpose of Annexation

The most important test to distinguish between a chattel or a fixture is evaluating the purpose which the item was brought on to your premises. If the item was brought for the purpose of permanently or substantially improving your space, it is likely a fixture. If the item was brought on to the property for a temporary purpose or so the item itself can be enjoyed by the occupiers of the space, it is likely a chattel. 

You should evaluate the purpose objectively. It is the purpose that the item serves, not the purpose of you, your landlord or the individual who brought it on your premises.

To assist in ascertaining the purpose that the item serves, you can also evaluate how difficult it would be to remove the object from your premises. If it would cause damage to your leased property, the item is likely a fixture. 

This evaluation may result in items fitting into a category that, at first glance, does not suit. For example:

  • moveable structures placed in the garden portion of your premises may be a fixture, as they were intended to be part of the architectural design of the space; or
  • trees may be a chattel, as they were attached to your premises with a purely decorative intention. 

What Do You Do With Chattels and Fixtures at the End of a Tenancy? 

Whether an item is a chattel or a fixture affects what you can do with that item when your tenancy agreement ends. 

You must leave all chattels that belong to your landlord on the premises at the end of your tenancy. You are entitled to take any chattels that belong to you or your business. 

Most fixtures cannot be removed from your premises at the end of your tenancy. However, you are entitled to remove fixtures that come under the category of a tenant’s fixture. To distinguish between a fixture and a tenant’s fixture, you must answer the following:

  • is it a trade, ornamental or domestic fixture? These fixtures are items that are attached to commercial premises by tenants for the purpose of their business, for decorative purposes or convenience; 
  • what is the purpose of the attachment of the fixture? If it was attached for the purpose of a better use of that item, it is likely to be a tenant’s fixture;
  • would the removal of the fixture cause damage to your leased property? If so, it is likely to be a normal fixture. 

You are entitled to remove a tenant’s fixtures:

  • while you are in lawful possession of your leased premises; or
  • during a reasonable period after you have ceased to have lawful possession of the leased premises. 

Key Takeaways

Items contained in your leased premises will likely fall into one of two categories: fixtures or chattels. To determine the category that the item falls under, you will have to evaluate the:

  • degree of the item’s annexation to your commercial property; and
  • purpose of the item’s annexation to your commercial property.

You are only entitled to remove items at the end of your tenancy that falls into the category of tenant’s fixtures. If you are unsure whether an item is a fixture or a chattel or require legal advice, contact LegalVision’s property and leasing lawyers on 0800 005 570 or fill out the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are chattels?

Chattels are moveable personal property items that are not permanently attached to commercial property.

What do chattels include? 

The following items are examples of chattels curtains or blinds, printers and
rugs.

What are fixtures?

Fixtures are items that are attached to commercial property and have become a part of the property itself.

What is the difference between chattels and fixtures?

The key difference between chattels and fixtures is that the latter category is part of leased property, whilst chattels are separate from the property.

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