If you’re planning on leaving your commercial property and want to remove certain items, what are your rights and where do you stand in terms of the law?
The area of defining what is a ‘fixture’ and a ‘chattel’ can be difficult. However, understanding the difference between them will help you determine what you can and cannot take with you at the end of your lease.
In law, a fixture is generally defined as: an article attached to land and regarded as part of it OR a chattel that has been attached to property so that its removal would damage the property and may therefore be considered as part of the property. The exception is a ‘trade fixture’, or item of machinery. If the object can be removed without causing substantial damage to the premises it is the tenants to take. If the structure of the property is compromised by its removal, it must stay in place.
A chattel is an item of property other than freehold land, including tangible goods and leasehold interests.
But which is which; fixture or chattel?
The general rule is; if it is a fixture, you can’t take it away, if it’s a chattel, it belongs to the tenant and can be removed.
In a recent case, a court had to decide whether large items of plant machinery installed in a steel mill by a tenant were fixtures or chattels. The High Court had held that all bar one of a hundred items were either chattels or tenant’s fixtures and could therefore be removed by the tenant. The landlord appealed because the lease contained a clause, which in their view, overrode the removal. The Court of Appeal agreed with the landlord.
As well as knowing how to classify items, it’s also imperative that you check the wording of your lease to ensure nothing can override your right of removal.
If you are still unclear and feel you need some expert advice about your commercial lease and the removal of items at the end of it, please contact one our Commercial Property solicitor John Porter. He’ll be happy to look over your existing lease or can assist in the writing of a new one. Call 0161 785 3529, email firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our web enquiry form.
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