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Chattels and Fixtures: What’s Included When You Purchase a Home

Buying a property can be a complicated process, and an area many people find particularly confusing is that of chattels and fixtures - the items included (or not) with the purchase. This can differ quite a bit from property to property; so how can you know what to expect? Here we’ve broken it down so you can be sure your new home comes with everything you need.


Chattels vs. Fixtures - What’s the Difference?

Let’s start with the basics. A chattel is an item of personal property that is movable. In contrast, a fixture is an item that is part of the building, built-in and immovable. It’s standard in Ontario sale contracts for chattels to be excluded from a property sale, and for fixtures to be included.


Some common examples of chattels and fixtures include: 


Chattels - Not Included

  • Blinds and curtains

  • Freestanding white goods

  • Furniture

  • Art

  • Rugs/other floor coverings


Fixtures - Included

  • Built-in appliances

  • Boilers and radiators

  • Fireplace

  • Doors

  • Sockets

  • Security systems

  • Bathroom fixtures

  • Fitted carpets


Grey Areas

However, as you can probably guess from above, there are many grey areas within the definitions of fixtures and chattels. Some common items that fall somewhere between traditional definitions include:

  • Wall-mounted TVs

  • Light fixtures

  • Curtains rods/rails

  • Bathroom mirrors

  • Electric car chargers

  • Garden decorations/fixtures (e.g. planters)


So how can you know what will be included in your purchase?


Nailing Down the Specifics - How To Avoid Issues In Your Purchase

As mentioned above, standard language in Ontario property purchase agreements states that chattels are excluded and fixtures included in a sale. However, exactly which items count as which needs to be defined in order to ensure a smooth transaction, with no surprises when you finally take possession of your new home. 


Best practice is to start the discussion of what’s included and excluded early on, with the help of your real estate agent. Most listings will include details on this area - usually for larger items such as appliances - but even a really detailed listing can’t cover everything. So step one is to ask your agent to check what’s included. For everything to go smoothly, it’s important for the seller’s agent and the seller to be comprehensive when providing the list of what’s included in the sale. Once you have this list in hand, you can start the process of checking whether all is as you expect, or if you need to negotiate changes.


The fixtures and fittings list provided by the seller will become part of the sale documents, making it legally binding. So it’s important to agree on its contents before exchange of contract.


When considering a property for purchase, make sure to analyze all factors. For example, if you have kids, you may want to explore which areas in the GTA have the best schools. 


The Golden Rule for Contracts

Unless an item is very obviously either a chattel or a fixture, it needs to be specified as an inclusion in the purchase agreement if you expect it to remain in the home. If you thought something should be included, and upon taking possession find it was not, you will have no recourse unless it was named in the contract specifically, or unless it is unequivocally a fixture.


Securing More Inclusions

It’s quite common for buyers to want more included in the purchase of their new home than the sellers initially list. For example, in a normal purchase all built-in appliances are included. But what if the house you’re buying has freestanding appliances that match the other appliances, but that aren’t fixed in place? A washer/dryer perhaps, or a fridge-freezer?


Oftentimes these items - and many others - can be included in the purchase, but it’s your responsibility as the buyer to raise the question with your agent, who can then liaise with the seller’s side. The seller may have intended to leave some of these items anyway, and simply not listed them through confusion about whether they were a chattel or fixture. Or they may be willing to leave them for an extra cost. 


Many extras can be negotiated for inclusion in the purchase of a property, including furniture and other personal items of the seller’s, so if you’re interested in having something stay, it’s always a good idea to ask. The worst the seller can do is say no!


Resolving Disputes

Misidentifying chattels and fixtures is one of the most common sources of turmoil in real estate, but the unclear nature of this area means that pursuing a legal claim regarding missing items is very tough. Unless an item is listed in the sale contract as included and has been taken from the home, you will have a hard time finding a resolution to the issue through the courts. In this instance, the best you can do is advise your real estate agent and ask them to connect with the seller in the hopes of finding a resolution.


However, if something that’s listed as part of the sale is absent when you take possession of the home, you have recourse. In this situation, the seller is liable for breach of contract; this may be resolved between your respective conveyancers, or in extreme cases through small claims court. If the missing item(s) are big enough though, you as the buyer can have the purchase agreement rescinded.


Tips for a Smooth Purchase

There are some simple rules to follow to ensure your property purchase goes off without a hitch:

  • Never assume something will be included or excluded. Always check.

  • Be specific.

  • Make sure you get full details for all inclusions in writing - including make and model information, serial numbers, and so on. 

  • During your final walkthrough, take note of what’s still in the house and make sure you’re happy.


Check, Check, and Check Again

Buying a home is stressful enough; avoid confusion and disappointment by communicating clearly and specifically about all aspects of the purchase, from the get-go. Remember to review your purchase documents thoroughly before signing. And if you’re unsure about something: ask one of our knowledgeable GTA realtors to get the answers you need!