Fixtures are generally items which are attached, or 'fixed,' to the property, while fittings are items which aren't attached to the property, other than by a nail or a screw (such as a picture or mirror, for example). It's generally assumed that fixtures will be included in a property sale, unless otherwise stated, while fittings will not be included unless the seller expressly agrees to leave them behind.
Fixtures and Fittings - Working out Which is Which
A good way of working out whether something is classed as a fixture or a fitting is to imagine tipping the house upside down and seeing what falls out! Basically everything that would fall out can be classed as a fitting. This would include any personal possessions along with furniture, free-standing appliances, rugs, artwork and kitchenware, for example.
Most of what's left can be classed as fixtures, with a few exceptions. Fixtures would include anything that is securely fixed to the house, such as a fitted kitchen, internal doors, integrated appliances, fitted carpets or the bathroom suite. It would also include the boiler and central heating system, including any radiators.
There are a few items, however, that fall into a grey area, such as curtain rails, blinds, shelving and cabinets on the walls. Although these items won't fall out if you tip the house upside down, most of these items are only attached by a nail or a couple of screws and can still usually be classed as fittings.
On the other hand, light fittings are generally classed as fixtures, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they will be left behind on completion. The seller of a property may choose to take light fittings with them, but they are legally required to replace these with a ceiling rose, a flex a bulb holder and a bulb. They also must leave the light fitting in a safe condition, so it's not an option for them to just leave live wires hanging out of the ceiling!
Fittings and Contents Form (TA10)
Ultimately, one person's view on what is classed as a fixture and what is classed as a fitting could be very different to another's. This can result in disagreements during the conveyancing process or it could even result in a nasty surprise for the buyer on completion, when they arrive at their new home to find it stripped of things that they were expecting to have been left behind.
This is why the Fittings and Contents form is so important. This is a form that is completed by the seller to confirm exactly what they will and won't be leaving behind on completion of the sale. The Fittings and Contents form (otherwise known as the TA10) has been created by the Law Society and is available to download from their website. If you are selling a property then your Conveyancing Solicitor will also provide you with a copy of this.
The form is divided into 11 sections, covering all of the basic fittings, light fittings, curtains, carpets, furniture, shelving and anything else that you would expect to find in most homes. The seller then needs to go through the property, room by room, and state whether each of these items will be included or excluded in the property sale.
Everyone Knows where they Stand
Once completed, the seller's solicitor will pass this form to the buyer's solicitor so that the buyer can see exactly what will and what won't be left behind. If there are any unexpected surprises at this stage then they can raise this with the seller's solicitor and negotiate with them to reach an agreement.
This means that come completion day the buyer will know whether, for example, they need to bring along new curtains to hang or whether they need to invest in a new washing machine and fridge-freezer. This way, everyone knows where they stand from early on in the conveyancing process.
Disputes over the removal of fixtures and fittings are common and frequently cost more to resolve than the value of the disputed items. The Fittings and Contents form can confirm that fixtures and fittings which were seen by the buyer on inspection of the property will or will not be removed from the property and whether these are included in the sale.
Alternatively, in appropriate cases the contract may contain a warranty given by the seller confirming that they have not removed any fixtures from the property since a particular date.