COLUMN: Your dream home or a bad dream?

You’ve signed a contract to buy or sell a home, but do you really know what is included in your deal?

Legal-Ease by Ravi Duhra

You’ve signed a contract to buy or sell a home, but do you really know what is included in your deal?

In many cases the buyers and sellers concentrate their focus on the price, and lose sight of the details that are very important to the deal itself.

When disputes arise between the parties involving the inclusion or exclusion of items, it’s usually because the buyers are surprised to see that an item they really liked is missing from the property on the day they move in. For example, a buyer may discover that the beautiful fridge seen when they viewed the home is not included in the purchase price. The same could be said about a wall mounted flat screen television, a storage shed, or a children’s swing set that was in the back yard during the time of viewing. In such disputes, the courts will start by looking at the contract to see what items are included in the deal. It is impractical for the contract to list every window, doorknob and roof shingle; therefore when drafting the contracts, you must understand the basic legal principles of chattels and fixtures.

The general rule in property transactions is that if the contract makes no specific mention of an item, and the item meets the definition of a chattel, then the seller is free to take the item. A chattel is any movable item which is neither land, nor permanently attached to the property, or any buildings.

For example, if a fridge has an icemaker and thus is plumbed into the house, it is a fixture. If the fridge is just plugged in, it is merely a chattel. A wall-mounting bracket holding the television is a fixture, but if the television itself only sits on the bracket, it will likely be considered a chattel.

A buyer may argue that a shed is a building, and thus a fixture, but courts have found sheds to be temporary structures and thus chattels. Similarly a swing set that sits in the yard on its own weight is considered to be a chattel. If the shed or swing set is secured into the ground by bolts then they would be considered fixtures and would form part of the property.

Everyone is free to include or exclude any item commonly found at the property as long as the parties explicitly write it into the contract. If the parties remain silent and do not address whether an item is part of the contract, the common law rules of chattels and fixtures will apply.

Your realtor and real estate lawyer can help you understand the terms of your real estate contract so that your dream home is all you expected it to be when you move in!

Ravi Duhra is an associate lawyer with RDM Lawyers LLP.