What is Fixture?

Alternative Forms: Fixtures
Legal Definition
A fixture, as a legal concept, means any physical property that is permanently attached (fixed) to real property (usually land) Property not affixed to real property is considered chattel property. Fixtures are treated as a part of real property, particularly in the case of a security interest. A classic example of a fixture is a building, which—in the absence of language to the contrary in a contract of sale—is considered part of the land itself and not a separate piece of property. Generally speaking the test for deciding whether an article is a fixture or a chattel turns on the purpose of attachment. If the purpose was to enhance the land the article is likely a fixture. If the article was affixed to enhance the use of the chattel itself, the article is likely a chattel.

Chattel property is converted into a fixture by the process of attachment. For example, if a piece of lumber sits in a lumber yard it is a chattel. If the same lumber is used to build a fence on the land it becomes a fixture to that real property. In many cases, the determination of whether property is a fixture or a chattel turns on the degree to which the property is attached to the land. For example, this problem arises in the case of a trailer home. In this case the characterization of the home as chattel or realty will depend on how permanently it is attached—such as whether the trailer has a foundation.

The characterization of property as a fixture or as chattel is important. In most jurisdictions, the law respecting the registration of security against debt, or proof that money has been lent on the collateral of property, is different for chattels than it is for real property. For example, in the province of Ontario, Canada, mortgages against real property must be registered in the county or region's land titles office. However, mortgages against chattels must be registered in the province-wide registry set up under the Personal Property Security Act.

In the case of a trailer home, whether it is a fixture or chattel has a bearing on whether a real property mortgage applies to the trailer. For example, most mortgages contain a clause that forbids the borrower from removing or demolishing fixtures on the property, which would lower the value of the security. However, there have been cases where lenders lend money based on the value of the trailer home on the property, where that trailer is later removed from the property. Similarly, a chattel mortgage granted to allow a person to purchase a trailer home could be lost if the trailer is later attached to real property.

The law regarding fixtures can also cause many problems with property held under a lease. Fixtures put in place by the tenant belong to the landlord if the tenant is evicted from the property. This is the case even if the fixture could have legally been removed by the tenant while the lease was in good standing. For example, a chandelier hung by the tenant may become the property of the landlord. Although this example is trivial, there have been cases where heavy equipment incorporated into a plant has been deemed to have become fixtures even though it was sold as chattels.

Because the value of fixtures often exceeds the value of the land they are affixed to, lawsuits to determine whether a particular item is a chattel or a fixture are common. In one case in Canada, a provincial government argued that a huge earth dam was a chattel, as it was only held in place by gravity and not by any type of affixation (the claim was rejected). In a sale of land, fixtures are treated as part of the land, and may not be removed or altered by the seller prior to the transfer of the land.

Fixtures are known in civil law as essential parts.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
A chattel that was at first a moveable object that then becomes part of the property due to it being attached with an objective intent to improve the property. In determining what qualifies as a fixture, the standard used determines whether the chattel can be removed from the property without causing substantial harm. If the removal would cause substantial harm to the property, then it qualifies as a fixture and cannot be removed.
Legal Definition
Property. Personal chattels annexed to land, and which may be afterwards severed and removed by the party who has annexed them, or his personal representative, against the will of the owner of the freehold.

2. Questions frequently arise as to whether fixtures are to be considered real estate, or a part of the freehold; or whether they are to be treated as personal property. To decide these, it is proper to consider the mode of annexation, the object and customary use of the thing, and the character of the contending parties.

3. - 1. The annexation may be actual or constructive; 1st. By actual connexation or annexation is understood every mode by which a chattel can be joined or united to the freehold. The article must not however be laid upon the ground; it must be fastened, fixed or set into the land, or into some such erection as is unquestionably a part of the realty. Bull. N. P. 34; 8 East, R. 38; 9 East, R. 215; 1 Tauut. 21; Pothier, Traite des Choses, §1. Looks, iron stoves set in brick-work, posts, and window blinds, afford examples of actual annexation. See 5 Rayw. 109; 20 John. 29; 1 Harr. and John. 289; a M'chrd, 553; 9 Conn. 63; 1 Miss. 508, 620; 7 Mass. 432; 15 159; 3 Stew. 314. 2d. Some things have been held to be parcel of the realty, which are not in a real sense annexed, fixed, or fastened to the freehold; for example, deeds or chattels which relate to the title of the, inheritance, go to the heir; Shep. Touch. 469; but loose, movable machinery, not attached nor affixed, which is used in prosecuting any business to which the freehold is adapted, is not considered as part of the real estate, nor as an appurtenance to it. 12 New H. Rep. 205. See, however, 2 Watts,& S. 116, 390. It is also laid down that deer in a park, fish in a pond, and doves in a dove-house, go to the heir and not to the executor, being with keys and heir-looms, constructively annexed to the inheritance. Shepb. Touchs. 90; Pothier, Traite des Choses, §1.

4. - 2. The general rule is, that fixtures once annexed to the freehold, become a part of the realty. But to this rule there are exceptions. These are, 1st. Where there is a manifest intention to use the fixtures in some employment distinct from that of the occupier of the real estate. 2d. Where it has been annexed for the purpose. of carrying on a trade; 3 East, 88; 4 Watts, 330; but the distinction between fixtures for trade and those for agriculture does not in the United States, seem to have been generally admitted to prevail. 8 Mass. R. 411; 16 Mass. R. 449; 4 Pick. R. 311; and set, 2 Peter's Rep. 137. The fact that it was put up for the purposes of trade indicates an intention that the thing should not become a part of the freehold. See 1 H. B]. 260. But if there be a clear intention that the thing should be annexed to the realty, its being used for the purposes of trade would not perhaps bring the case within one of the exceptions. 1 H. BI, 260.

5. - 3. There is a difference as to what fixtures may or may not be removed, as the parties claiming them stand in one relation or another. These classes of persons will be separately considered.

6. - lst. When the question as to fixtures arises between the executor and the heir. The rule, as between these persons has retained much of its original strictness, that the fixtures belong to the real estate, or the heir i but if the ancestor manifested an intention, which is to be inferred from circumstances, that the things affixed should be considered as personally, they must be so considered, and will belong to the executor. See Bac. Abr. Executors and Administrators; 2 Str. 1141; 1 P. Wms. 94 Bull. N. P. 34.

7. 2d. As between vendor and vendee. The rule is as strict between these persons as between the executor and the heir; and fixtures erected by the vendor for the purpose of trade and manufactures, as pot-ash kettles for manufacturing ashes, pass to the vendee of the land. 6 Cowen, R. 663; 20 Johns. R. 29. Between mortgagor and mortgagee, the rule seems to be the same as that between vendor and vendee. Amos & F. on Fixt. 188; 1 5 Mass. R. 1 5 9; 1 Atk. 477 16 Verm. 124; 12 N. H. Rep. 205.

8. - 3d. Between devisee and executor. On a devise of real estate, things permanently annexed to the realty at the time of the testator's death, will pass to the devisee. His right to fixtures will be similar, to that of the vendee. 2 Barn. & Cresw. 80.

9. - 4th. Between landlord and tenant for years. The ancient rule is relaxed, and the right of removal of fixtures by the tenant is said to be very extensive. 3 East, 38. But his right of removal is held to depend rather upon the question whether the estate will be left in the condition in which he took it. 4 Pick. R. 311.

10. - 5th. In cases between tenants for life or their executors and the remainder-men or reversioners, the right to sever fixtures seems to be the same as that of the tenant for years. It has been held that the steam engines erected in a colliery, by a tenant for life, should belong to the executor and not go to the remainder-man. 3 Atk. R. 1 3.

11. - 6th. In a case between the landlord and a tenant at will, there seems to be no reason why the same privilege of removing fixtures should not be allowed. 4 Pick. R. 511; 5 Pick. R. 487.

12. The time for exercising the right of removal of fixtures is a matter of importance a tenant for years may remove them at any time before he gives up the possession of the premises, although it should be after his term has expired, and he is holding over. 1 Barn. & Cres. 79, 2 East, 88. Tenants for life or at will, having uncertain, interests in the land, may, after the determination of their estates, not occasioned by their own faults, have a reasonable time within which to remove their fixtures. Hence their right to bring an action for them. 3 Atk. 13. In case of their death the right passes to their representatives. See, generally, Vin. Abr. Landlord and Tenant, A; Bac. Abr. Executors, &c. H 3; Com. Dig. Biens, B and C; 2 Chitty's Bl. 281, n. 23 Pothier, Traite des Choses; 4 Co. 63, 64 Co. Litt. 53, a, and note 5, by Hargr.; Moore, 177; Hob. 234; 3 Salk. 368; 1 P. Wins. 94; 1 Atk. 553; 2 Vern. 508; 3 Atk. 13; 1 H. Bl. 259, n Ambl. 113; 2 Str. 1141; 3 Esp. 11; 2 East, 88; 3 East, 38; 9 East, 215; 3 Johns. R. 468; 7 Mass. 432; 6 Cowen, 665; 2 Kent, Com. 280; Ham., Part. 182; Jurist, No. 19, p. 53; Arch. L. & T. 359; Bouv. Inst. Index, h. t.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
1. A fixture is a personal chattel substantially affixed to the land, but which may afterwards be lawfully removed therefrom by the party affixing it or his representative, without the consent of the owner of the freehold. Cook v. Whiting, 16 111. 480; Teaff v. Hewitt, 1 Ohio St. 511, 59 Am. Dec. 634; Baker v. Davis, 19 N. H. 333; Capen v. Peckham, 35 Conn. 88; Wolford v. Baxter, 33 Minn. 12, 21 N. W. 744, 53 Am. Bep. 1; Merritt v. Judd, 14 Cui. 64; Adams v. Lee, 31 Mich. 440; Prescott v. Wells, Fargo & Co., 3 Nev. 82. Personal chattels which have been annexed to land, and which may be afterwanis severed and removed by the party who has annexed theng or his personal representative, against the will of the owner of the freehold. Ferard, Fixt ; Bouvier. The word "fixtures" has acquired the peculiar meaning of chattels which have been annexed to the freehold, but which are removable at the will of the person who annexed them. Hallen v. Runder, 1 Cromp., M. & R. 266. "Fixtures" does not necessarily import things affixed to the freehold. The word is a modem one, and is generally understood to comprehend any article which a tenant has the power to remove. Sheen v. Rickie, 5 Mees. & W. 174; Rogers v. Gilinger, 30 Pa. 185, 189, 72 Am. Dec. 694.

2. Chattels which, by being physically annexed or affixed to real estate, become a part of and accessory to the freehold, and the property of the owner of the land. Hlll. Things fixed or affixed to other things. The rule of law regarding them is that which is expressed in the maxim, "accessio cedit principali," "the accessory goes with, and as part of, the principal subject-matter." Brown. A thing is deemed to be affixed to land when it is attached to it by roots, as in the case of trees, vines, or shrubs; or imbedded in it, as in the case of walls; or permanently resting upon it, as in the case of buildings; or permanently attached to what is thus permanent, as by means of cement, plaster, nails, bolts, or screws. Civ. Code Cal. § 660.

3. That which is fixed or attached to something permanently as an appendage, and not removable. Webster. That which is fixed ; a piece of furniture fixed to a house, as distinguished from movable; something fixed or immovable. Worcester. The general result seems to be that three views have been taken. One is that "fixture" means something which has been affixed to the realty, so as to become a part of it; it is fixed, irremovable. An opposite view is that "fixture" means something which appears to be a part of the realty, but is not fully so ; it is only a chattel fixed to it, but removable. An intermediate view is that "fixture" means a chattel annexed, affixed, to the realty, but imports nothing as to whether it is removable; that is to be determined by considering its circumstances and the relation of the parties. Abbott.
See also
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Something so attached to the realty as to become for the time being a part of the freehold. See 68 Md. 478, 6 Am. St. Rep. 467, 13 Atl. 370, 16 Atl. 301.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary