Closet organizers. We can spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars on these contraptions to make maximum use of our closet spaces. However, who gets the closet organizer when the house is sold? Can the seller take it with them, or must it be left behind for the buyer?
The answer, unfortunately, is not clear, based on the law of chattels and fixtures.
Under the terms of the standard agreement of purchase and sale form, all fixtures must remain with the property unless excluded by the seller and all chattels can be taken by the seller, unless included by the buyer.
What is a chattel and what is a fixture? A wise man once said to me, "If it takes a tool, that's the rule." In other words, if the item is so attached to the home or the property that it requires a tool to remove it, then it is presumed to be a fixture. If it is not attached at all, or only attached by, for example, a plug or a hook on a wall, then it is a chattel. However, while some closet organizers can be removed by hand, others are built into the wall itself. As you can see, it starts to get confusing, and when there is confusion, lawyers start coming to court to figure it all out.
Over the years, I have heard about sellers taking mirrors, broadloom, drapes, light bulbs, garage door openers, swimming pool equipment, garden sheds and even rose bushes. A garage-door opener looks like a chattel because you can hold the remote in your hand, but it's a fixture because it's part of the built-in garage-door assembly. But the answer may be different if the garage unit is only resting on a wooden beam and is not actually attached.
If you're a seller and you want to keep the dining room chandelier, the gold-plated faucets in your bathroom, or any other items you may have an emotional attachment to, take them out of your house before you list it. Replace the chandelier with a cheaper version, or make it very clear in the agreement that you're taking the chandelier with you.
Buyers, if you agree to the seller taking the chandelier, insist that they install a cheaper version before closing, or you may find the house completely dark when you move in.
When you're a buyer, there is no such thing as too much detail regarding the chattels or fixtures that you expect to receive on closing. My best advice is to list the make and model (and serial numbers, if available) of all appliances that are being included, and also note the colour and location of all drapes, carpeting, pool equipment, satellite dishes, barbecues, sheds, bushes, and anything else you expect to be on the property when you move in. Leave nothing to chance.
During any home inspection, ask permission and then take photographs of all of the chattels and fixtures that you have included, so you'll know if they've been replaced before closing.
Insert a clause in your agreement that permits a pre-closing visit so you can satisfy yourself that all the chattels and fixtures that are supposed to remain on the property are still there.
In my view, most closet organizers would legally be considered chattels. Still, if your agreement is specific as to who gets the closet organizer, then both the seller and the buyer will not be confused or disappointed after closing. That is the real lesson to remember.
SOURCE: YOUR HOME/ THE TORONTO STAR