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An article in the nature of Personal Property which has been so annexed to the realty that it is regarded as a part of the real property. That which is fixed or attached to something permanently as an appendage and is not removable.

A thing is deemed to be affixed to real property when it is attached to it by roots, imbedded in it, permanently resting upon it, or permanently attached to what is thus permanent, as by means of cement, plaster, nails, bolts, or screws.

Goods are fixtures when they become so related to particular real estate that an interest in them arises under real estate law, e.g. a furnace affixed to a house or other building, counters permanently affixed to the floor of a store, or a sprinkler system installed in a building.

Fixtures possess the attributes of both real and personal property.


Fixtures are generally classified as agricultural, domestic, ornamental, or trade. Agricultural fixtures are articles that are annexed for the purpose of farming. Domestic and ornamental fixtures are objects that a tenant may attach to a unit in order to render it more habitable. Stoves, shelves, and lighting equipment are types of domestic fixtures. Ornamental fixtures include curtains, chimney grates, blinds, and beds fastened to walls.

Trade fixtures are articles affixed to rented buildings by merchants, in order to pursue the business for which the premises are occupied. They encompass those items that merchants annex to the premises to facilitate the storage, handling, and display of their stock for sale to the public—such as booths, bars, display cases and lights—that are usually removable without material damage to the premises. The objective of this rule is to promote trade and industry. A tenant, however, has no right to disengage a trade fixture if its detachment would cause substantial damage to the premises.


The article must be physically annexed to the realty or something appurtenant thereto in order for it to become a fixture. Annexation to land occurs when the object is permanently affixed to the property through the application of plaster, cement, bolts, screws, nuts, or nails.

The attached article must also be adapted to the intended use or purpose of the realty so that it effectively becomes inseparable from the land itself.

The intention of the person who attaches the article determines whether or not the article is a fixture. The individual is not required to verbalize the intent, although the courts will evaluate such expressions. The courts consider the tenant's intent, which is inferred from all of the facts and circumstances concerning the actual annexation of the object, such as the nature of the article affixed, the method of annexation, and the extent to which the object has been integrated into the real estate.

Agreement of the Parties

The parties may enter into an agreement in regard to the nature of an item to be utilized with realty. Statutes confer this right in some jurisdictions, and these agreements are enforceable whenever the rights of third persons are not violated.

The terms of a lease often define the rights of a Landlord and Tenant in regard to fixtures. If the lease unequivocally stipulates that the tenant has the right to remove particular articles, the fact that the removal will damage the rented premises is immaterial.

Fixtures are usually attached to rented premises for the tenant's benefit without any intention of increasing the value of the landlord's property. Generally when no agreement exists between the parties, articles annexed by the tenant may be detached by the tenant, during the term of the tenancy, provided such can be done without damaging the premises.

The law favors the tenant's position that certain articles should be regarded as personal property rather than as part of the realty. Such improvements are those made to the rented premises by a tenant for personal enjoyment and use and, therefore, should retain their character as personal property.

Time of Removal

If a trade fixture is not removed from the premises within the period specified in the lease, it becomes part of the realty and the landlord acquires title to it. A tenant's failure to remove domestic fixtures within the proper period will usually have the same result. The tenant is presumed to have abandoned the fixtures by failing to remove them.

The amount of time allotted to the tenant to remove the fixtures varies. In some jurisdictions, the objects must be removed during the term of the tenancy. The right to remove the articles terminates with tenancy, in some states; whereas, in others, the tenant may remove the articles within a reasonable time after the expiration of the tenancy. The facts and circumstances of each case determine what period constitutes a "reasonable time."

The landlord can expressly consent to the tenant's removal of the fixtures even after the conclusion of the lease term or the surrender of possession. If the owner persuades the tenant to leave fixtures on the premises for some particular objective, he or she cannot acquire title to the fixtures because the tenant has postponed their removal.

In most states, if a tenant accepts a new lease that contains no provisions concerning articles attached during tenancy under the prior lease, the tenant will lose the right to remove them. At the expiration of the initial lease, the fixtures become part of the realty. By accepting the new lease, the tenant acquires a temporary interest in both the fixtures and the land.

Generally, an extension of the original lease does not deprive the tenant of the right to remove fixtures. The tenant's right of removal is lost, however, if he or she merely stays or holds over without extending the current lease.

If the landlord prevents the tenant from detaching fixtures to which he or she is entitled, the time for removal is extended until it can be accomplished. If the landlord wrongfully ends the tenancy and the tenant is ousted, the tenant has a reasonable time in which to remove his or her fixtures.

After the tenancy expires, a landlord can order the tenant to unfasten unwanted fixtures. If the tenant fails to do so, the landlord can have the fixtures removed and charge the tenant for expenses incurred in their removal.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


n. a piece of equipment which has been attached to real estate in such a way as to be part of the premises and its removal would do harm to the building or land. Thus, a fixture is transformed from a movable asset to an integral part of the real property. Essentially a question of fact, it often arises when a tenant has installed a lighting fixture, a heater, window box, or other item which is bolted, nailed, screwed or wired into the wall, ceiling or floor. Trade fixtures are those which a merchant would normally use to operate the business and display goods, and may be removed at the merchant's expense for any necessary repair. (See: trade fixture)

Copyright © 1981-2005 by Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill. All Right reserved.
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