Fixtures in Property Law - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 Fixtures in Property Law
  • 0:58 Trade Fixtures vs. Chattel
  • 1:53 Fixture, Trade…
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nathan Osborn

Nate Osborn is a real estate attorney in Denver, Colorado. His practice is focused on real estate litigation and real estate transactions. He graduated with B.A. from Texas Christian University in 2003. He received his J.D. from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007. He currenlty a licensed in Colorado and Nebraska. He frequently lectures on real estate related issues across the country.

Learn about the difference between fixtures, trade fixtures, and chattels and why these legal distinctions are important real estate concepts to understand. Explore methods to determine the legal status of these real estate items.

Fixtures in Property Law

In the real estate industry, determining whether an item is a fixture, trade fixture, or chattel is important. Indeed, the legal status of an item can determine, for example, whether the property owner or the tenant is entitled to the item at the end of the lease. Real estate lenders are also interested in these legal distinctions because a fixture can be used as security for a real estate loan, but a trade fixture and chattel cannot.

Fixtures are items that are permanently attached to the land, a home, or a commercial building. These items are considered the property of the land, home, or building owner. A prime example of a fixture is a commercial building on a foundation constructed on raw land. In a landlord-tenant context, examples of fixtures include the electrical wiring or the plumbing installed in the building.

Trade Fixtures vs. Chattel

Trade fixtures are the personal property of a tenant that were installed to help the tenant conduct business. In short, items that were specifically installed to help the tenant's business are sometimes legally considered the tenant's property, and not the landlord's property, even if the trade fixture is attached to the building. Some examples of trade fixtures include machinery installed specifically to manufacture product sold by the tenant, or electrical panels that were installed to power the tenant's machinery.

Property items that are not attached to the land, home, or building are considered chattels. Chattels are not considered part of the land, home, or building and, consequently, they are not necessarily considered the property of the land, home, or building owner. Examples of chattels include computers, telephones, or copy machines located within a building.

Fixture, Trade Fixture, or Chattel

Determining the legal status of an item is often complicated. Characteristics of the item that should be analyzed to determine legal status include the nature of the item, the manner of the item's attachment to the land or building, and the intent of the party attaching the item. Also, look at the relation of the party attaching the item to the land or building. Finally, it often makes sense to review how much damage removing the item causes to the land, home, or building.

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