It is important that the issue is identified. The maxim “quicquid planatur solo, solo credit1” suggests that whatever is attached to the soil becomes part of it. The essence of this maxim leads to a fundamental distinction, the difference between fixtures and fittings/chattels (as well as items which are part and parcel of the land itself2). Furthermore, section 62 Law of Property Act 1925 includes fixtures are part of the ‘conveyance of land’, confirming the complex distinction of fixtures and fittings. The issue therefore is which category does each item come under? For clarity purposes it will be noted now, what will be concluded.
If discovered we are dealing with fixtures then the purchaser (Yolanda) will be entitled to all fixtures attached to the land at the date of exchange of contracts3. In contrast to this if we find that items are fittings then David is entitled to sell the items on the internet or do whatever he pleases with them. In the viewing there seems to be an oral agreement, yet no formal measure has been carried out. Generally, as part of a contract for sale of land parties will be required to complete a fixture, fittings and content’s form before the transaction has been completed for the purchase of land.
If this is the case then both parties are entitled to whatever was agreed to in the form. However, it will assumed that no form was completed as there appears be an oral agreement (which only creates moral obligation’s but not legal ones). Furthermore no specific provision is mentioned in a contract. Therefore, in deciding if a certain item is either a fixture or a fitting two tests will be applied along side the common law. These two tests are referred to as the degree of annexation test and the purpose of annexation test.
First of all it must be considered whether the contents of the study were reasonably taken away by David. The study contained ‘specific equipment and books. ‘ The degree of annexation of these objects (although not certain), seem to be resting on there own weight, this will indicate that they are fittings4. However this is not always ‘conclusive5’ as Blackburn J symbolically explained with his example of a ‘dry stone wall’6 items still may have intended to become part of the land. Therefore, the purpose of annexation can ‘override’7 the degree of annexation test.
In D’Eyncourt v Gregory8 it was established that objects emphasise the special nature of the design of the property and ‘complete the architectural design’ would be regarded as fixtures. Therefore it may be suggested that these items completed the design and therefore are fixtures. If this was the case then David would have to replace the items9. However, the decision by Scarman L. J in Berkley v Poulet10 suggests these is only an outside chance of this happening. It was decided that pictures, marble statutes and a sundial were to be enjoyed as items in themselves; they were not intended to create a permanent improvement to the land.
It should be noted, that although it was said by David the items ‘belonged to the house’, the courts use an objective test as opposed to a subjective test, therefore paying no attention to the intention of the seller. The quote therefore has no significance, as Roch L. J states ‘If the item viewed objectively, is, intended to be permanent and to afford a lasting improvement to the building, the thing will have become a fixture. If the attachment is temporary and is no more than is necessary for the item to be used and enjoyed, then it will remain a chattel,11′(This in essence is the purpose of annexation test).
Therefore, looking at the purpose of the objects they seemed to be in the building to be enjoyed as items in themselves. Therefore, it would seem will probably be classed as chattels under both tests, (unless it can be proven they maintain the architectural design). The blue plaque had been placed on the outside wall. The word ‘placed’ suggest the plaque is resting on its own weight. An alternate word such as fixed would indicate it was attached to the land, this indicates it is a chattel.
As well as this, whether it is so heavy that the plaque is part and parcel of the land will be hard to claim, especially as in Berkley a half ton marble statue failed to be a fixture12. Similarly to the books etc mentioned previously, if the plaque could be concluded to be essential to the architectural design then it may be a fixture, however this will seem unlikely. Alternatively was the plaque to enhance the building? It had been placed to ‘remember its famous owner’, not to be enjoyed as an item in itself. It could be suggested that it was put to add value to the building and to make a lasting improvement.
If this is the case then it could be considered to be a fixture. I feel the outcome of the plaque therefore depends on the discretion of the judge. In relation to the internal doors, the two tests can be applied. An internal door is attached by a screws and a hinge to the wall. It is not resting on its own weight. However, it is very easy, normally only four screws to attach an internal door. The degree of annexation is therefore complex. The more difficult it will be to remove the door without serious damage the more likely it will be a fixture13 although the purpose of annexation test will be more important for this issue.
The purpose of the doors seems to indicate that they are to make a lasting improvement to the house, it would be hard to suggest that the door was there to be enjoyed in itself. The doors were installed to put in a lasting improvement to the building, therefore they are ‘part of the house14’. Iit can be suggested that the internal doors are fixtures. Furthermore light switches will be seen as fixtures. Light switches are attached to the electricity in the house to light up rooms. They are there for the enjoyment of the house, to make a lasting improvement to each room.
The damage removed as well would be quite considerable, it would mean that Yolanda can’t turn on the lights when she first’s moves in. It is clear light switches are fixtures. The doorbell will furthermore be decided as a fixture. Again the doorbell is attached to the house, to serve a purpose, to make an improvement to the house, to alert people that a person has arrived. If the doorbell was ‘unique’, e. g. a special designed doorbell then it may be classed a fitting as it could be enjoyed as an item in itself15. However, assuming it is a normal doorbell (as no further description as been mentioned) it can be suggested it is a fixture.
The shrubs have been ‘dug up’, they are in the ground (not in a plant pot). It will be easily argued by Yolanda that they were to make a lasting improvement to the garden and furthermore are rooted in the soil. The shrubs are also fixtures. In relation to the fireplace, more information is needed. Will removing the fire have damaged the fabric of the building? 16 Is the fire just an electric fire which is only attached by electric or has the house got a chimney which the fireplace was apart of? The example can be similar to that Roch L. J’s distinction in Botham with two different cookers. Will the item need to be replaced by a professional?
More information is needed before a decision can be made. In Botham an electric fire was classed as a fitting and therefore it could be a fitting, but if it was a fireplace which would have to be removed by a professional and may damage the fabric of the building I would suggest it is a fixture. More information is needed. In conclusion as the shrubs, internal doors, light switches and the doorbell are fixtures, Yolanda will be entitled to have these replaced or receive compensation for them, they are part of the land17. The fittings are Davids are he entitled to do what he wants with them. More information is needed on the fireplace.