Every state has its own guidelines for what constitutes a fixture, but here are the five tests California courts use to determine what is a fixture and what is not. Not every test needs to be met.
It's called M-A-R-I-A.
- Method of attachment. Is the item permanently affixed to the wall, ceiling or flooring by using nails, glue, cement, pipes, or screws? Even if you can easily remove it, the method used to attach it might make it a fixture. For example, ceiling lights, although attached by wires, can be removed, but the lights are a fixture.
- Adaptability. If the item becomes an integral part of the home, it cannot be removed. For example, a floating laminate floor is a fixture, even though it is snapped together. One could argue that a built-in Sub Zero refrigerator is considered a fixture, although it can be unplugged, because it fits inside a specified space.
- Relationship of the parties. If the dispute is between tenant and landlord, the tenant is likely to win. If the dispute is between buyer and seller, the buyer is likely to prevail.
- Intention of party when the item was attached. When the installation took place, if the intent was to make the item a permanent attachment, for example, a built-in bookcase, the item is a fixture.
- Agreement between the parties. Read your purchase contract. Most contain a clause that expressly defines items included in the sale and ordinarily state "All existing fixtures and fittings that are attached to the property."
At the time of writing, Elizabeth Weintraub, DRE # 00697006, is a Broker-Associate at Lyon Real Estate in Sacramento, California.