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 state acknowledges as regulating the conduct 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 chattel or a fixture. Chattels are not land, but are simple own property that may be removed if the individual going from the property wishes to do so. A chattel is usually moveable and tangible, even though they are able of becoming fixtures if they are fixed in or onto a building. The second type of item of a property is fixtures, which are asset 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 occasion of a sale it cannot be disconnected from the property without any condition stating it can within the contract. In addition, within the case of Holland v. Hodgson 1872 the test and introduction for whether an object was a chattel or a fixture was set out by Blackburn J.
Moreover the key act which defines land is the law of property act 1925 specifically section 205 (1) (ix) which explains that land includes any tenure, mine and minerals, corporeal hereditaments, rents, 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 leasehold and freehold 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.
Conversely, the 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.
Customarily, the test of for whether an object was a chattel or a fixture was set out by Blackburn J within the case of Holland v. Hodgson 1872. In this case the judges had to identify whether the looms fixed in a factory formed part of the factory and if they were part of the land. In this case (Blackburn J, 1872) 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 mentioned that “an article which is affixed to the land slightly is classified to be as part of the land, until the circumstances show that it was intended to continue as a chattel”. But within this case the court determined that the looms were fixtures. Furthermore, this case clearly demonstrate that the looms had become fixtures and formed part of the land, as the main function of the attachment was for the use of the factory as a mill.
Another case which applied the test in Holland v. Hodgson was the Berkley v. Poulett 1976 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 purpose of making them part of the land. The court of appeal also mentioned that the plinth did form part of the land, but the statue did not because there was no proof which indicated that the statue was designed to go in just that specific place within the garden as part of an architectural scheme. The court of Appeal also explained further stating that the sundial was also a chattel rather than a fixture, as it had been detached from its pedestal many years before. On the other hand, in the case of D’Eyncourt v. Gregory 1866 the court held that the statues, figures, vases and stone garden seats that were part of the architectural design of the grounds were fixtures despite if they attached to the ground or not. However, 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.
On the other hand, in the case of Elitestone v. Morris 1997 (Lord Lloyd, 1997) of Berwick stated that “he found the distinction between chattels and fixtures bewildering in the context of a building or house”. Lord Lloyd introduced a theory and idea 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 earlier. 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 item cannot be removed from the land except by damage it has come part and parcel of the land itself.
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 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 unfinished within this case, as the chairs were their for a short-term purpose, as the use of the chattel as a chattel. Similarly, in the case of Vaudeville Electric Cinema V Muriset 1923 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 as fixtures regardless of 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 lasting 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 case. The court held that the freeholder’s appeal was dismiss. The reason for this is that the chalet did form part of the land let to the tenant and there was no action of building something, which meant that it could not be used all year around.
Alternatively, within the case of Mew & Anor v Tristmire 2012 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 different to that in Elitestone v. Morris, in examining the object of annexation the court was to have regards to the circumstances existing when the boats came to the site, however within this case the boats were simply moveable and not intended to be lasting 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. Lyon v. London City and Midland Bank 1903 2 KB 135
6. Vaudeville Electric Cinema V Muriset 1923 2 Ch 74
7. Spielplatz Ltd v. Pearson and Another 2015 2 All ER 754 CA
8. 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).