Frequently, the inclusion of Chattels in an Agreement of Purchase and Sale will cause tension in a real estate transaction. See below further Consideration. Buyers visit a home they like and they often want more than what “goes with the house.” I’ve heard them say; I love it ! I want the house and everything in it! The trend to stage a house or condo adds to the dilemma because the furnishings are perfect but are owned by the staging company and not the Seller.
So what is a chattel and what is a fixture? Typically, chattels include movable items in a house such as stoves, fridges, washers and dryers but sometimes may include furniture or exterior lawn ornaments. Fixtures are fixed or attached permanently to the walls or ceiling with screws, nails, copper pipe or wire. A toilet is a fixture, a mirror and work bench may be a fixture. But what about a kitchen island that can slide on the floor to different positions, or a shelving unit that is screwed to the wall for safety reasons? When there is an important ambiguity the exclusions should be prominently displayed in a listing so that it is clear what is included in the sale.
I try to point out to Sellers in advance what may be included in an offer to purchase so that they have the opportunity to replace a fixture with strong emotional meaning. The dining room chandelier is often contentious. Imagine an expensive art deco light fixture the seller want to take with them. Unless it is specifically excluded the Buyer will expect it to be hanging in the dining room on closing day. One option the Seller should consider is the replacement of the light with something less valuable but attractive before the property is put up for sale and photographs are taken. That way the Buyer will not be distracted in the offer to purchase.
I try to remind Buyers and Sellers that traditional chattels like stoves and fridges are simply used appliances. Becoming emotionally involved may put the whole transaction at risk. Remember, their useful life is unpredictable and they may break down the day of closing or the day before! Who pays the expensive repair bill, the Buyer or Seller?
When dealing in real estate, listen to your agent and keep it in perspective.
Imagine the consequences of a sump pump that is owned by a neighbour and left as a favour on site. Shortly after closing day there was flooding in the basement because the pump was returned to the neighbour. The pump was a chattel and not included in the sale. The Buyer sued the Seller for damages and removal of the pump.
A condo was sold with appliances included with an agreement that all appliances be in good working condition on closing. One week after closing the Buyer discovered the Fridge was not working well and sued the Seller and the agents for a replacement fridge.