Chattels and fixtures and lawyers, oh my!

Mourning

We got an interesting call at the office a few weeks ago: my partner’s client was told by the seller of his home that the furnace was going with them. When my partner called the seller’s lawyer to ask for an explanation, he explained that the furnace was a chattel, was not included in the agreement, and did not have to stay in the house.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to discuss what exactly a chattel is, and what makes it different from a fixture. An easy way to visualize it is this: if you flipped your house upside down and shook it, anything that stayed in place would be a fixture. Kitchen cupboards, bolted in mirrors, water softeners, and, yes, furnaces. All of these are fixtures, and are presumed to be sold with the house unless specifically excluded.

Chattels, on the other hand, are movable. They are light fixtures, curtains, furniture, etc. – all of the things that make the house your home. Even appliances are generally considered chattels, and must be specifically included or they are presumed to go with the vendor to their new home.

So back to our furnace issue: a furnace is essentially attached to the house. It takes considerable effort to remove it. The matter isn’t fully resolved yet, but hopefully our client will have his furnace, his fixture, firmly in his possession soon.

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