ID Number: U1803322
Introduction: In this essay I shall analyse how the law determines if an item of a property is a chattel or a fixture and I shall explain a range of appropriate principles, theories, evidence and techniques including additional research to support my analysis. Firstly, the word ‘law’ means a system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce the imposition of penalties. Whereas, the simple definition of a ‘property’ is that it is a thing or objects belonging to someone. In addition, the law determines whether an item of a property is or is not part of the land by identifying if it is a fixture or a chattel. Fixtures are assets that are installed or fixed into a property and therefore become part of that property in law. Fixtures are land and form part of it and in the event of a sale it cannot be removed from the property without any conditions stating it can within the contract. The second type of property is chattels, which are not land, but are simple personal property that may be taken away if the individual going from the property wishes to do so. A chattel is usually tangible and moveable, although they are capable of becoming fixtures if they are fixed in or onto a building. In the case of Holland v. Hodgson 1872 LR 7 CP 328 the test for whether an object was a chattel or a fixture was set out by Blackburn J and he stated that this would determine by the degree of annexation and the purpose of annexation.
The general meaning of land means the soil, ground and earth including any buildings on the land, fixtures attached to the land, mines, minerals and some air space. The key statute which defines land is the law of property act 1925 specifically section 205 (1) (ix) which explains that land includes any tenure, mines and minerals, corporeal hereditaments, rent, other incorporeal hereditaments, easement, right, privilege, benefit in, over, or derived from land. This definition of land applies in England and Wales, and this act deals principally with the transfer of freehold or leasehold land by deed. On the other hand, conveyancing deals with procedure by which those interests are transferred from one person to another, whereas the term ‘equity’ means to be fair.
Moreover, common law is the legal system in Great Britain and according to the common law, judges must consider the decisions of earlier courts about similar cases when making their own decisions. In addition, we see this in the Berkley v. Poulett case where the judges followed Blackburn J test within the Holland v. Hodgson case.
Traditionally, the test of for whether an object was a chattel or a fixture was set out by Blackburn J in the case of Holland v. Hodgson 1872 LR 7 CP 328. In this specific case the question was whether the looms installed in a factory formed part of the factory and if they were part of the land. Blackburn J stated within this case that whether an object is a fixture or a chattel would be determined based upon the degree of annexation and the purpose of annexation. Blackburn J also introduced the degree and object of the annexation test and concluded stating that an article which is affixed to the land even slightly is considered to be as part of the land, unless the circumstances show that it was intended to continue as a chattel, but within this case the court decided that the looms were fixtures. Furthermore, this case clearly demonstrates that the looms had become fixtures and formed part of the land, as the main purpose of the attachments was for the use of the factory as a mill. 1.
Another case which applied the test in Holland v. Hodgson was the Berkley v. Poulett 1976 120 Sol Jnl 836 case. In this case the court of Appeal concluded that the pictures which were attached to the walls were not fixtures at all. The reason for this was that they were put on the walls to be enjoyed as pictures rather than with the intention of making them part of the land. The Court of appeal also stated that the plinth did form part of the land, but the statue did not, as there was no evidence which suggested that the statue was designed to go in just that spot within the garden as part of an architectural scheme. The court of Appeal also explained further stating that the sundial was also held to be a chattel as well rather than a fixture, as it had been detached from its pedestal many years earlier. On the other hand, in the case of D’Eyncourt v. Gregory 1866 LR 3 Eq 382 the court held that the statues, figures, vases and stone garden seats that were part of the architectural design of the grounds were fixtures regardless if they attached to the ground or not. In addition, this case clearly shows a different judgement then the Berkley V. Poulett case, as it still classifies the statues, figures, vases and stone garden seats as fixtures regardless if they were attached to the land or not.
However, in Elitestone v. Morris 1997 2 All ER 513 Lord Lloyd of Berwick said that he found the distinction between chattels and fixtures confusing in the context of a house or building. Lord Lloyd also stated that the objects brought to the land was either a chattel, fixture or part and parcel of the land itself. Moreover, in this case of Elitestone v. Morris the concern was a chalet or bungalow resting on concrete blocks on the ground, which had been brought onto the land many years before. The court held that the chalet was a part and parcel of the land itself. In this case the reason for this judgement is that if an object cannot be removed from the land except by destruction it has come part and parcel of the land.
Another example of how the law determines a chattel is within the case of Chelsea Boat and Yacht club v. Pope 2001 2 All ER 409. In this case the court held that the houseboat was a chattel and had not become part and parcel of the land itself. The reason for this is that the house was not annexed to the land and it could be disconnected from any services.
In two cases cinema chairs were once held to be a chattel and fixture based upon why they were fixed to the land. In the case of Lyon v. London City and Midland Bank 1903 2 KB 135 the court held that the cinema chairs were chattels. The reason for this is that even though the chairs were screwed down to the floor the annexation was incomplete within this case, as the chairs were their for a temporary purpose, as the use of the chattel as a chattel. Similarly, in the case of Vaudeville Electric Cinema V Muriset 1923 2 Ch 74 the court held that the chairs were fixtures. The reason for this within case is that the cinema chairs attached to the floor of the cinema by screws were held to constitute fixtures despite the fact that they could have been easily removed without too much damage. However, the court concluded that the cinema chairs were fixtures because they have been affixed in order to become a permanent feature and to enable the building to be better enjoyed at the cinema.
In another recent application of the Elitestone v. Morris case was the Spielplatz Ltd v. Pearson and Another 2015 2 All ER 754 CA case. The court held that the freeholder’s appeal was dismissed. The reason for this is that the chalet did form part of the land let to the tenant and there was no construction which meant that it could not be used all year around. Alternatively, within the case of Mew & Anor v Tristmire 2012 1 WLR 852 CA the court held that the house boats did not form part of the realty and remained as chattels. The reason for this is that whilst the degree of annexation was not dissimilar to that in Elitestone v. Morris, in examining the object of annexation the court was to have regards to the circumstances prevailing when the boats came to the site, however within this case the boats were easily moveable and not intended to be permanent structures.
Conclusion: Overall, the law determines if an item of a property is or is not part of the land by classifying it as a chattel, fixture or part and parcel of the land itself. Furthermore, this concept does make sense, as it also considers the purpose of annexation and the degree of annexation in most of the cases which I have analysed throughout this essay.
Books & Journal References/ Bibliography:
1. Clarke, S. and Greer, S. (2016) Land Law Directions. 5th Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
2. Cowan, D. and Fox O’Mahony, L. and Cobb, N. (2016) Great Debates in Land Law. 2nd Edition. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
3. Davys, M. (2017) Land Law. 10th Edition. London: Palgrave Macmillian.
4. Conway, H. (1998) ‘Case Comment on Elitestone v Morris’ Conveyancer and Property Lawyer, 418.
5. Pawlowski, M. (1997) ‘House: Chattel or Realty’ Journal of Housing Law, 1(2), pp. 23-26.
Law Reports/Cases References ; Bibliography:
1. Holland v. Hodgson 1872 LR 7 CP 328
2. Berkley v. Poulett 1976 120 Sol Jnl 836
3. D’Eyncourt v. Gregory 1866 LR 3 Eq 382
4. Elitestone v. Morris 1997 2 All ER 513
5. Chelsea Boat and Yacht club v. Pope 2001 2 All ER 409
6. Lyon v. London City and Midland Bank 1903 2 KB 135
7. Vaudeville Electric Cinema V Muriset 1923 2 Ch 74
8. Spielplatz Ltd v. Pearson and Another 2015 2 All ER 754 CA
9. Mew & Anor v Tristmire 2012 1 WLR 852 CA
Journal article in a database and website References & Bibliography:
1. Maxwell, S. (2016) ‘Fixtures or Chattels’ Educational Review, 37(5), pp. 38.
2. Ellitestone and Morris (1997) Available at: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199697/ldjudgmt/jd970501/elites01.htm. (Accessed: 9 November 2018).
3. Hayes, M. (2013) Fixture or chattel. Available at: https://www.hcrlaw.com/blog/is-it-a-fixture-or-a-chattel/. (Accessed: 10 November 2018).