Disputes Over Fixtures and Fittings in Commercial Property Leases
Disputes over fixtures and fittings tend to arise at the end of a lease, when either tenant or landlord disagree on either the responsibility for, or ownership of a fixture. If the terms of the lease are not crystal clear, the laws governing assets can become complicated concerning properties that may (or may not!) be part of the lease.
At Lupton Fawcett, our legal experts have extensive experience when it comes to dealing with disputes over fixtures – we can help you to negotiate and resolve your issues as swiftly and efficiently as possible. Speak to one of our expert Commercial Property Dispute Lawyers for advice today.
Chattels and fixtures – which is which?
Establishing ownership of the affixed assets in a leased property can become complex, often due to the differentiation between an asset and a chattel. A chattel is a tangible, movable object and not a fixed part of a property. However, if and when the chattel is fixed to the property it may become a fixture, depending on the circumstances; for instance a sink, when delivered to a property would be classed as a chattel, but as soon as it is installed to the property and plumbed in, it becomes a fixture. Fixtures are generally intended to be reasonably permanent, and are affixed with methods such as cement, nails, screws or bolts.
When disputes go to court, there are two tests which help to establish whether an item qualifies as a chattel or a fixture:
1. The method and degree of annexation
If the removal of the asset from the property would cause serious damage to the property, then it is most likely to be a fixture, rather than a chattel. Chattels are by nature portable and not an integral part of a property.
2. The object and purpose of annexation
If the object is intended to be a permanent part of the property, and is intended to improve the property, then it is a fixture. If the asset is only temporarily installed and could be removed easily without causing damage to the property, then the asset qualifies as a chattel.
At the beginning of a lease, it is usually obvious what constitutes a chattel, and what is a fixture, and this should be clearly defined in the lease. Heating systems and bathroom fittings are examples of fixtures that come with the property. Where disputes arise over fixtures, it is often because of items that have been installed to a property by the tenant during the term of the lease, such as security systems, counters or shelving. The ownership of a fixture under the law is not necessarily determined by who paid for it.
Types of fixtures
Fixtures within a property can be categorised into two types; the tenant’s and the landlord’s fixtures. It is important to know who each fixture is attributed to, so that both parties understand their responsibilities concerning them. Landlord’s fixtures are generally a part of the property, they come with the building and are usually part of the property from the point that the lease begins.
Tenant’s fixtures are assets installed in the property by the tenant after the start of the lease. The tenant may have the intention of removing them, which they may do at any time during or at the end of the lease. If the tenant does not remove the fixture in the specified time, they may be considered to have abandoned it, and it becomes the property of the landlord.
Leases often set out requirements concerning the tenant’s responsibilities with regard to removing assets at the end of a tenancy – for example they may be required to restore the property to its previous condition, or to pay compensation if they fail to do so. Responsibility for the maintenance of fixtures will fall upon the party responsible for them, so it is crucial that each party knows who owns what.
How Lupton Fawcett can help
Lupton Fawcett have been helping landlords and tenants with property disputes for over a century and whatever your situation, we can help you too. If you are struggling to establish who is responsible for the fixtures in the property you either own or lease, we can help to unravel the legalities, giving you clear expert advice and guidance, allowing you to resolve your dispute as efficiently as possible.
If you are considering entering into a new lease, or if you are considering making changes to a leasehold property, it is vital that you fully understand how your lease relates to fixtures, and what your responsibilities and obligations are. Our experts can help with drawing up leasehold agreements, or by fully explaining your obligations to you before you make any legal commitments. Whether you have queries before, during, or at the conclusion of your lease, we are here for you.
We provide a personalised service, with sector specialists and extensive resources to ensure we are giving you the best solutions to your problems.
Our Commercial Property Disputes Solicitors act regularly for clients across the United Kingdom including Bradford, Birmingham, Hull, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Sheffield, York and Nottingham. We can support your needs wherever you live in England, Wales & Northern Ireland.
For a no obligation initial consultation please either call the office or leave your details using the contact form at the top of this page. We’ll be happy to help.