Real Estate Definition: What is a Chattel?

photo of washer and dryer

As you navigate the Canadian real estate market, you might have come across something called a chattel. But what is a chattel? And what is a chattel in real estate?

Put simply, a chattel is a movable personal property not permanently affixed to the land. Some examples of chattel include furniture, appliances (dishwashers, dryers, stoves, and fridges), and personal items.

Beyond a basic definition, what else do you need to know? Let’s dive a bit deeper.

What is a Chattel? Your Basic Questions Answered

You might be surprised to learn that in most real estate acquisitions, chattels are not included in the transactions unless it is specified by the parties involved in the agreement.

Indeed, the inclusion or exclusion of chattels in a real estate transaction involves both the buyer and the seller. If a chattel is to be included in the sale, it should be mentioned in the agreement, and a proper description of the specific item should be inserted into any housing contract.

Housing market analysts will assert that understanding the difference between a chattel and a fixture is important to avoid confusion between any of the participants. Remember, a chattel is not permanently affixed, but a fixture is a personal property that is attached to the property in a way that it becomes part of it.

Unsure what this would entail? Some examples of this would consist of water heaters or water softeners.

Now, it is crucial to know that any removal of the fixture could potentially damage the residential property. Of course, this is not the case with chattel.

The difference might not be critical, but it is crucial, as is the explicit mention of the inclusion or exclusion of fixtures and/or chattels. When a homebuyer takes out a mortgage, fixtures are generally included, but the arrangement does not consider chattels. As a result, they might need to be financed separately if they are to be included in the real estate purchase.

The intention of the affixing party is immaterial when classifying an item as chattel or fixture unless this intention can be inferred, determined, or presumed through the examination of the item. Outside this evidence, the parties involved are not permitted to question the call. The real intention of the party is also not relevant.

Therefore, the only thing that matters is the objective examination of the item.

A common problem in real estate transactions is the misidentification of chattels and fixtures. Two presumptions can help in this regard.

First, the general rule is that anything that is affixed is a fixture, and anything that is not fixed is a chattel.

However, there are some situations in which this definition falls into a grey area. For instance, a microwave sitting on the countertop will be considered a chattel, but if that microwave is fixed on a kitchen cabinet system, it should be classified as a fixture. As a result, the specific classification of these items is vital to avoid any problems with the real estate transaction. The best way to address this issue is to list the item’s make and model and include a photograph. This way, it is easier to understand what items are fixtures and what are chattels.

Second, if the prospective occupants are interested in including the chattel, they would need to consider taking out a chattel mortgage. These are mortgages that finance the movable property. The item itself is used as collateral for this loan. The lender secures the mortgage on the item, and the ownership is transferred to the lender. Once the loan is repaid, the mortgage is removed.

Chattel mortgages typically possess higher interest rates than traditional mortgages. It is also helpful to remember that the value of chattel drops rapidly because of depreciation. It is not like a residential property in the Canadian real estate market that increases in value with time, improvements, and repairs.

In the end, this is why chattel is treated differently in real estate.

What is a Chattel? Knowing the Distinctions

Understanding the distinction between chattel and fixtures is also essential, as it can maintain tax consequences and produce issues related to ownership rights. Any legal implications are the last thing anyone wants to have following a lengthy home-buying process!

Overall, it is recommended that if there are any doubts about the status of an item, market experts say that it is best to consult a real estate agent or an attorney with real estate law experience to avoid any complications once the agreement is finalized.

By employing this strategy, a buyer cannot complain later about why something was included or excluded once the papers are signed.

Compare listings