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  • Writer's pictureHerman Janse van Rensburg

Fixtures and Fittings: What forms part of the property and what can be packed?

Buying or selling a house is a significant financial decision, and understanding what exactly is included in the sale is crucial. You might be asking: What am I buying or selling? What forms part of the purchase price? While it may seem straightforward (you’re buying the land and the house built on it), the situation can become complex when considering items like a custom-made wooden bar in the lounge or a fitted coffee machine in the kitchen.


MOVABLE AND IMMOVABLE PROPERTY


Property can be classified as either movable or immovable. This distinction is essential because, typically, an agreement to buy a house includes only immovable property.


Movable Property: Movable property refers to items that can be easily removed without causing damage to the house, such as chairs, refrigerators, computers, pot plants, and cars. These items are usually excluded from the sale.


Immovable Property: Immovable property, included in the sale, consists of the land, any permanent structures on the land, and any fixtures and fittings attached to these structures. Examples include the house itself, a built-in swimming pool, electric gates, and burglar bars. However, the concept of fixtures and fittings often requires closer examination.


FIXTURES AND FITTINGS

Fixtures and fittings are items that are permanently attached to the property. These items, once attached, become part of the immovable property. But how do you determine when an item’s classification changes from movable to immovable?


The Test: Determining Fixtures and Fittings


Luckily, Courts have provided guidelines to help clarify whether an item is a fixture or fitting. Here are a few useful guidelines:


  1. Method of Attachment: Consider how the item is attached to the property. If it is bolted or cemented in place, it suggests that it is intended to remain there indefinitely. It is likely a fixture. For example, items like a wall mirror nailed to the wall might raise questions about its permanence.

  2. Customisation: Evaluate whether the item is custom-made for the property, such as built-in cupboards or a specifically designed and fixed water feature. These items are typically considered fixtures because they are integral to the property’s function and design.

  3. Intention of Attachment: The owner’s intention behind attaching an item to the property is also important. If the attachment appears permanent, it is likely a fixture. The intent can be inferred from the nature of the attachment and the item’s role in the property.


Understanding these principles can help avoid disputes over what is included in a property sale. However, exceptions do exist, and each situation can be unique.


The solution lies in having a clear list. Luckily the Property Practitioners Act requires the completion of a mandatory disclosure where an estate agent is involved. While the aim of the disclosure is to report the condition of the property, the disclosure often contains references to specific items that are fixed to the property.


LEGAL ASSISTANCE WITH SALE AGREEMENTS


When negotiating a sale agreement, it is crucial to review the "fixtures and fittings" clause carefully. This ensures you are not leaving valuable items behind unintentionally or expecting to receive items that are not included in the sale.


To ensure all your bases are covered when buying or selling a property and that you get the best back for your buck, contact us at Van Zyl Scheepers Attorneys. Let us become a fixture to your property transaction, and we’ll ensure that the transaction proceeds smoothly and meets all legal requirements​.

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