Fixtures and fittings: make sure it’s not on show if it’s not for sale

Since the inception of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) it has become more important for home sellers – and their agents – to be very specific, clear and honest about what they are selling.

“And that does not only apply to the condition of the property, but to all the fixtures and fittings as well,” says Berry Everitt, MD of the Chas Everitt International property group.

“Although it is as yet untested in the real estate context, the CPA does provide that there should be no ambiguity, let alone deception, when goods or services are advertised for sale or promoted in any way,” he notes, “so our advice to sellers is always to remove any fixtures that will not be included in the sale before putting their homes on show.”

By definition, a fixture is moveable “personal” property that by means of bolts, nails, screws, cement, glue or other method of attachment has been converted to “real” or immovable property. The difference is clear if one considers curtains hanging by hooks from rails or rods that are screwed into the wall. The actual curtains can be easily removed and as such are usually considered “personal” property. However the rails and rods should be left in place given their more permanent nature.

Blinds are also usually permanently attached and thus could quite reasonably be assumed by a homebuyer to be included in the sale, as could ceiling fans, light fittings, built-in water features, fireplaces, ovens, bookcases and bars, swimming pool and borehole pumps, TV aerials and satellite dishes and plants or trees that are growing in the ground.

“And yet,” says Everitt, “we often come across sellers who would like to take some or all of these fixtures with them to their new homes, as well as their furniture, artwork, loose carpets and mirrors, pot plants and other items of ‘personal’ or movable property which they are of course entitled - and expected - to remove.

“We have also seen disputes arise over items that are themselves not fixed in place but without which certain fixtures do not work, such as garage door remotes, pool cleaners, the batteries for a solar power system and recently, the LPG cylinders for a gas stove and fireplace.”

But given the provisions of the CPA, he says, it may now not be enough for the seller just to state in the Offer to Purchase that certain fixtures will not form part of the sale. “Besides which, we don’t believe it is fair to show prospective buyers a home with all the ‘trimmings’ in place only for them to find out later that many of these are not included in the price.

“On the other hand, it is better for sellers in the long run if, as part of staging their home before a showday, they take away the fixtures that are not for sale. What prospective buyers do not see, they cannot assume to be included or argue about later.”

Meanwhile, if buyers are still concerned, they should be sure to ask specifically if certain fixtures that they like are included in the sale, and to have these individually written into their Offer to Purchase.

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