A home buyer internet forum asked, ‘What is the pettiest thing your seller has removed?’ Most replies are light-hearted: a loo roll holder, the curtain rails or a basketball hoop. Some tell a story of buyers moving in and discovering missing kitchen units, damage from ripped out features or attics full of junk.
‘Fixtures and fittings can quickly become a source of irritation for buyers and sellers alike,’ agrees Katie Wilson, a Legal Executive in the residential property team with Humphries Kirk. ‘In some cases, their removal may even result in a costly dispute. It is a pity, as most problems can easily be avoided.’
Here, Katie examines the thorny topic of fixtures and fittings and how your conveyancer will stop them spoiling your next home move.
What are fixtures and fittings?
Fixtures are items physically attached to the property and form part of it. In contrast, fittings are things you can readily remove. For example, a mirror which you can easily take down is a fitting whereas, a central heating boiler or radiators are fixtures.
In practice though, there are a lot of grey areas. Often whether something is a fixture or fitting depends upon the context. For example, a greenhouse may be either; if it has foundations, it is probably a fixture. If it is more temporary in nature, it will be a fitting.
Why does the difference matter?
This distinction is important as it may determine what you get when you buy a property. Unless the sale contract provides otherwise, fixtures are included in the sale. In contrast, the sellers still own any fittings and can take them when they move.
Unfortunately, this distinction can cause a lot of confusion. Sellers can sometimes remove fixtures, wrongly believing they remain theirs. In this case, both sides could end up disappointed. You have the inconvenience and stress of an incomplete property and a potential dispute, while the sellers may have to return the items and pay compensation.
Form TA10 and the sale contract
Form TA10 is a standard form covering fixtures and fittings, completed by the seller and setting out which items they will leave at the property and which they will remove. It also allows them to say whether they require an additional payment over the agreed property price for any item they are leaving.
If you are unable to reach an agreement over an item, your solicitor can help by keeping any discussions professional and non-confrontational. Once you have agreed what the sale includes, your solicitor will ensure the contract accurately reflects this to avoid any unpleasant surprises on completion.
Your future new home may have a feature that is important to you: an AGA, a hot tub, or garden pagoda, something which makes the property special to you. Confirm with the sellers if it is included in the sale and tell your solicitor who will then make sure that the contract covers it properly.
Sellers may insist on removing a certain fixture. They should agree this with you in advance and the contract should provide for them to repair any damage they make in taking it out. Even so, you may still want to check the property prior to completion to ensure they have done so satisfactorily.
The sale contract will usually provide for vacant possession which means the sellers should leave the property empty. Even so, sometimes sellers leave behind rubbish, furniture, and personal possessions. We may suggest inspecting the property before releasing the completion monies. This way, you can be confident your new home will be ready for you to move into and enjoy.