Buying Land and Property

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Lawyer, Terese Kingman, answers some common questions

The definition of ‘land’ is found in Section 205 (1 )(ix) Law of Property Act 1925 and includes land of any tenure, mines and minerals, buildings or parts of buildings and easements (eg a right of way or a right to light).

What will I own when I buy a house?

You will own the land itself together with all buildings, fixtures, hedges, ditches, fences, ways, waters, watercourses, liberties, privileges, easements, rights etc as described in Section 62 Law of Property Act 1925. ‘Buildings’ usually includes sheds, outbuildings and conservatories. Privileges, easements and rights can include the right to fish, the right to use services or the right to access your property over an estate road.

If I find something on my land can I keep it?

If an object is found buried in the ground it is usually seen as part of the land and as such the land owner has the superior right to keep the item if the rightful owner cannot be found. By contrast, if an object is found lying on the surface of the ground it will be seen as belonging to the owner of the land only if he has made it clear that he has manifest control over the land. Otherwise the finder of the item (as long as he is not a trespasser) may keep the item against all but the true owner of the item.

Is there any way of finding out what a seller is leaving in the property and what he is taking on completion?

Sellers are asked to fill out a Fittings and Contents List which itemises most of the items in the property. This forms part of the contract for sale and if the seller indicates he is leaving something but in fact removes it from the property between exchange and completion he will be in breach of the terms of the contract.

What is the difference between a Fixture and a Fitting?

Fixtures are regarded as being part of the property whereas Fittings are considered to be chattels.

In order to distinguish between Fixtures and Fittings two tests must be adopted. The first test is the degree of annexation. If an item is firmly attached to the land it will be a fixture. For example, in a modern home bathroom and kitchen units are considered to be part of the land as they are for the benefit of the property. The second test is the purpose of annexation. In other words, was the item fixed to improve the land or merely for its own use? In the case of TSB Bank plc v Botham (1996) the court considered white goods, carpets and curtains to be fittings due to their temporary attachment to the property. The courts have also taken into account whether items on the land were part of an “architectural scheme or design”. So, it could be argued that a stag’s head in an old English pub might form part of a “scheme of decor” and will be a fixture rather than a chattel!

Can the seller remove garden vegetables?

There is very old case law which states that annual crops requiring periodical labour for production (such as potatoes) are not part of the land being sold. However, it will be expected of a seller to indicate whether he will be removing items from the garden on the Fittings and Contents Form.

Can a seller remove a fixture from the property?

Fixtures can only be removed up to exchange of contracts and not between a buyer’s final inspection of the property prior to exchange of contracts. Once contracts have been exchanged the seller is holding the property on trust for the buyer which means he cannot do anything to the property which would prejudice the buyer.
It is always advisable for a buyer to inspect the property prior to exchange of contracts.

For more information about buying land and property call our property team on 01271 372128