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Chattels: What Goes and What Stays

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Items included or excluded from a sale can be a surprise.

  • Photograph of Nancy Smith
  • Qualicum Beach REALTOR®
  • Published: Jun 1st, 2021 at 6:39 am

Here is a leading case on the matter: In Royal Bank of Canada v. Maple Ridge Farmers Market Ltd., [1995] B.C.J. No. 1696 (S.C.) Maczko J. proposed six rules useful in the assessment of what is a fixture and what is a chattel.

Those rules are:

1) Any item which is unattached to the property, except by its own weight, and can be removed without damage or alterations to the fixtures or land that will need repair, is a chattel.

2) Any item which is plugged in and can be removed without any damage or alteration is a chattel.

3) Any item which is attached even minimally (i.e. it cannot simply be unplugged) is a fixture.

4) If a piece of equipment is attached to a structure, a part of which could be removed but which would be useless without the attached part, then the entire piece of equipment is a fixture. In other words, the item will be a fixture if it loses its essential character because it is of no use unless attached to a permanent and substantial improvement to the premises of which it formed part. The converse is also true. If an item can be detached without damage or alteration, and if the item retains its essential character without the attached part, then it will be a chattel.

5) Where an item is determined to be a fixture, it may nevertheless be removed if it can be shown that it is a tenant's fixture. A tenant's fixture may be removed from the premises during the currency of the tenancy provided that the tenant leaves the premises in exactly the same condition as he or she received them.

6) In very exceptional circumstances not covered by these rules the court should have resort to the purpose test. For example, a mobile home may be resting on the land by its own weight but it may be clearly established that it was intended to be a fixture. These circumstances should only arise rarely and in relation to very large or expensive items.

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