“Whether you are buying or selling a property, knowing exactly what’s included in the sale is crucial. That’s why you need to understand the difference between fixtures and fittings.”
Olivia Sweet, Residential Property Team
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What are fixtures and fittings?
We all know the phrase, but do we really understand what are ‘fixtures and fittings’? And why is it so important to appreciate the difference between them when selling or buying a house?
It’s understandable that when you find your dream home, you will want to know what’s included in the sale. The beautifully fitted kitchen – a clear yes (albeit beware the non-integrated items – see below). The stunning dining room furniture – a clear no. But what about the curtain rails?
There have been many attempts to define fixtures and fittings, sometimes even by the court, but essentially, fixtures are anything attached (fixed) to the building. In contrast, fittings are anything not attached unless very loosely so – perhaps by a screw or a nail. An oft-cited analogy is that if you turned a house upside down and shook it, items that fall out are fittings and everything else is a fixture.
Generally, you would be right to assume that fixtures are included with the property, whereas fittings are not. Returning to our fitted kitchen, freestanding items such as a washing machine, tumble dryer, or a non-integrated fridge freezer are fittings. On the other hand, an integrated dishwasher is usually deemed a fixture, despite only being secured in place by a few screws. A confusing situation is a freestanding cooker with a matching hood. The general assumption is that the fixed hood makes the associated but non-integrated cooker a fixture.
Examples of fixtures and fittings
The following are examples of what could be classed as fixtures or fittings:
- Cupboards, including built-in wardrobes and kitchen units;
- Door handles;
- Electrical sockets, light switches and light fixtures;
- Satellite dishes and television aerials;
- Security alarms and doorbells;
- Boilers, plumbing and radiators;
- Baths, toilets, sinks and showers;
- Fireplaces and surrounds.
- Curtains and poles;
- Tables, chairs, beds and all other freestanding furniture;
- Paintings and mirrors;
- Fridges, freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers.
However, these definitions are no more than a rule of thumb. If the seller makes it clear before exchanging contracts that something which is clearly a fixture, perhaps a fireplace, is not included in the sale, it will not be included. That is why a fixtures and fittings template is so important. In most cases, sellers must complete the Law Society’s Fittings and Contents Form TA10. This is a very thorough fixtures and fittings form designed to provide clarity over what is and is not included to avoid disputes. And disputes do happen. Check out this extreme example of a dispute over fixtures and fittings.
As a buyer, if there is something that a seller has indicated they are taking with them that you would like to retain, raise the matter with them at an early stage. It may be that you can reach an agreement, but you should not leave this discussion to the day before exchange of contracts!
Conversely, a seller will sometimes ask a buyer if they wish to purchase one or more fittings or chattels or even offer to leave it free of charge. This may be because removing it will be awkward or expensive, or they simply do not want it.