Fixtures in buildings
According to HMRC, ‘… a fixture is an asset that is installed or otherwise fixed in or to a building or land so as to become part of that building or land in law’ (for example a boiler). This is as opposed to a chattel, which is ‘…an asset, which is tangible and moveable’ (such as furniture). So for example, a bath may be a fixture, but a fridge a chattel.
HMRC suggest that ‘… a chattel may become a fixture if it is fixed to a building or land. For example, before it is installed in a building as part of a central heating system, a central heating radiator is a chattel. Once installed, it becomes a fixture.’
- The degree of physical affixation. This is not a conclusive test, but generally, the greater the degree of affixation (ie the damage that would be caused by removal) the more likely it is that an object is a fixture. The easier it is to remove, the more likely it is to be a chattel.
- More conclusively, if the object is intended to be permanent and effect a lasting improvement to the property, it is a fixture. However, if any attachment is intended to be temporary and no more than is necessary for the object to be used and enjoyed, then it is a chattel.
However, these tests are not always used as the basis for determining the right to remove an object. Leasehold agreements will generally distinguish between the landlord’s fixtures and tenants fixtures which they may remove at the end of the lease (as long as they make good any damage). Similarly, conveyancing reports for the sale of property may state that certain fixtures are not being sold as part of the land.
Disputes can arise in particular in relation to expensive items such as paintings that may to a greater or lesser extent be a part of the building in which they are housed. Where there is doubt, it may be advisable to seek legal advice, and ensure that the position is set out in writing before signing any agreement.
In addition, the distinction between fixtures and chattels is important when calculating stamp duty land tax. Fixtures form part of the taxable value of the purchase, whereas chattels do not. The inclusion of fixtures can move the saleable price for tax purposes to the next stamp duty threshold, resulting in a much larger tax liability for the purchaser than had been expected. Ref HMRC, SDLTM04010 - Scope: How much is chargeable: Fixtures and fittings.
HMRC suggest that:
- carpets (fitted or otherwise)
- curtains and blinds
- free standing furniture
- kitchen white goods
- electric and gas fires (provided that they can be removed by disconnection from the power supply without causing damage to the property)
- light shades and fittings (unless recessed).
On the other hand, the following items will not normally be regarded as chattels
- fitted kitchen units, cupboards and sinks
- agas and wall mounted ovens
- fitted bathroom sanitary ware
- central heating systems
- intruder alarm systems.
A deduction would, however, be appropriate for amounts properly apportioned to any plants growing in pots or containers.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Chattel. Repeats some of the text in this article.
- Furniture, fixtures and equipment.
- Room data sheet.
- Temporary demountable structures.
- Vacant possession.
 External references
Featured articles and news
Why is this American teapot-shaped gas station historically significant? Find out here.
Plans for the first phase of Vastint’s 16.5-acre Tetley Brewery development project get the green light.
This article explores the question, how should we regulate the real estate industry?
Specialist regeneration and investment developer UandI announces ambitions with new Manchester office.
Concrete will have to be demolished and replaced in Hinkley Point tunnels.
Do you have a great idea for how tomorrow's challenges can be met by today's buildings? Enter our ideas competition today.
A new exhibition on humanitarian shelter design will open on BRE's Innovation Park next month.
ICE London Air Quality Taskforce launches plan to help clean up London’s polluted air.
From neolithic to neo-modernism, have a read of our summary of the main architectural styles.
In the heritage sector, sustainable development should be discussed in the wider context of place and planning.
The cost efficiency of sprinklers compared to other fire protection measures.
Lord Adonis warns the UK faces gridlock on the roads, railways and in the skies.
The Government sets out its blueprint for hitting the fifth carbon budget.