What are Fixtures and Chattels?

Published On: 23 September 2021

Sometimes it can be difficult to understand the difference between fixtures and chattels when you are buying or selling property.

This is not always a black and white answer.

A fixture is a chattel (good) that is regarded as having become part of the land (including a building) by being attached to it.
Chattels are moveable goods.

Real property includes the land and anything fixed to the land. If you buy a house with an inground swimming pool and a built-in dishwasher, these “fixtures” become your property.

However, you may not have rights over objects such as an above-ground pool or a portable dishwasher unless the contract of sale specifies that they were included. When a Transfer of Title takes place, fixtures will remain with the property, and personal chattels will remain with the vendor (seller).

Ownership V Possession

Ownership of Titles (also know as “Title”) gives a person the power to exercise all available rights over it. Possession of property gives a person the right to maintain exclusive control over it against every claim, except that of the true owner.

Owners of Freehold Estates acquire the most extensive rights and there are 2 main types.

  1. Fee Simple.
    This estate creates the most extensive freehold interest. The owner may sell, lease, mortgage, dispose of by will, or otherwise transfer interests in the land.
  2. Life Estate.
    The “life tenant” acquires the rights of a true owner for the duration of his or her life. The tenant has no right to sell the property but may make lawful and reasonable use of it.

Joint Estates is where land is co-owned as either Joint Tenants or Tenants in common.

  • Joint tenancy
    Must satisfy the 4 unities of title (possession, interest, title and time). A tenant cannot Will his or her share; the last survivor gains outright title. This ownership is common amongst married couples and others in similar relationships. Joint Tenants have an equal interest in the property and one certificate of title is issued. Upon death of a joint tenant, the survivor may apply to Land Services SA to become the registered owner of the deceased person’s share.
  • Tenancy in Common
    Each tenant is entitled to an equal right of possession. A tenant can Will or dispose of his or her share. Tenants in common ownership is often used where the buyer of the property are friends, business associates, or relations and they have pooled their funds for the purchase of the property. They can hold the property in shares apportioned according to each owner’s contribution. They can also request a separate Certificate of Title for each share of the property. When one owner dies, that person’s share does not automatically go to the other tenant in common, it is distributed according to the deceased persons share of the property and their will.

If you have any queries in relation to the above, please contact Strathalbyn Conveyancing.