Fixture or chattel?

The question in Botham v TSB Bank plc ([1996] EG 149 (CS) CA (Eng)) was whether various items were fixtures and so subject to the mortgage granted by B to TSB of his flat. The items were: fitted carpets; light fittings; gas fires; curtains and blinds; towel rails, soap dishes and lavatory roll holders; fittings on baths and basins; kitchen units (including the sink); and white goods in the kitchen. Applying the degree and purpose of annexation tests, the English Court of Appeal decided that the towel rails etc, bath and basin fittings and built-in kitchen units and some of the light fittings were fixtures. The rest of the items were chattels.

Roch LJ proposed a set of indicators to be used when deciding whether items that had been attached to a building are fixtures or chattels:

1. Is it an ornament and is the attachment to the building intended to allow the item to be enjoyed as an ornament? Then it is a chattel.

2. Can the item be removed without damaging the fabric of the building?

3. Is it free-standing or set into the surrounding part of the building?

4. Did the person who brought the item onto the land own it?

5. What type of person installed the item? Was it the builder (then more likely to be a fixture) or a specialist installer or the occupier himself (more likely to be a chattel).

Indicators 4 and 5 are a little surprising.

One Response to “Fixture or chattel?”

  1. an. Says:

    I would like to ask the following questions:
    1. How is the size (not the weight) of a chattel relates to the degree of annexation test in deciding whether it is fixture?

    2.Is the factor in considering whether removal of item will cause destructions to the land a factor under degree/purpose of annexation test?

    3. If item A cannot be enjoyed on its own, but is to increase quality of enjoyment of chattel B placed on land, like some sort of device that facilitate reception of telecommunication of chattel B, and that chattel B is held in law not to be a fixture. IS it under this situation the item A under the purpose of annexation test still seen as facilitating enjoyment of the chattel itself (though not on its own, but on another chattel) OR is it categorized as for a better enjoyment of land itself?

    4. Apart from the factor whether the chattel brought to land is for enjoyment of its own or for the land, what are the other factors
    considered in the purpose of annexation test?

    5. In Hong Kong, except for one piece of land in Central, all other lands are leasehold estates granted by HK government. But then why under s2 of CPO, the expression for “a term of years absolute in land” includes a lease from the HK governemnt when s2 defines legal estate? So am I correct to say there is no legal estate in Hong Kong? (but then what is the use of the definition in s4(1) of CPO requiring transaction of legal estate requires a deed?)

    6. I do not quite understanding the relationship between legal and leasehold estates vs. legal and equitable interest?

    7. Is it true to say that upon the moment when both parties sign the formal agreement on sales and purchase of property,
    a. the vendor is NOT allowed to remove any chattels from the land that are classified as fixture under law (unless stated otherwise in agreement) AND
    b. the vendor IS allowed to remove any chattels from the land that are not classified as fixture in law (unless stated otherwise in agreement) UNTIL the completion day to hand in good title and vacant possession to purchaser arrives?

    If it is true, what is the legal reasoning behind part b.?

    Thanks for answering my questions.

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