Fixtures, as the name indicates, are things of an accessory character annexed to houses or lands, and in that sense they include not only such matters as grates in a house, or steam engines in a colliery, which follow in some respects the law of personal chattels, but such things also as windows and palings, which are for every purpose parcel of the realty. To be a fixture, however, the thing must not constitute a part of the soil or principal subject matter itself - e.g. the walls or floors of a house, being an intrinsic part of the house, are never described as fixtures - and, on the other hand, the fixtures must be in some union or connection (actual or constructive) with the principal subject matter, and not merely brought into contact with it, as in the case of a picture suspended on hooks against a wall or a wooden barn resting by its weight alone upon a brick foundation.
As to annexations made by a tenant during his term, the general rule is that he can never again sever them without the landlord's consent; the property by being annexed to the land belongs to the freeholder, and a tenant by making it a part of the freehold is considered to have given up all future right to it, so that it would be waste in him to remove it afterwards. But a tenant may so construct the erections that they shall not be deemed fixtures: thus, if he erect even buildings, as barns, granaries, sheds, and mills upon blocks, rollers, pattens, pillars or plates, resting on brickwork they may be removed, for, unless they be affixed to the freehold by being let into it, or are sure by means of nails, mortar, or the like united to it, they remain movable chattels only. The exceptions to this rule are three: -
1. In favour of trade. A tenant may remove such things as he has fixed to the freehold for purposes of trade or manufacture, if the removal causes no material injury to the estate, 2. For agricultural purposes. The Agricultural Holdings Act, 1883, gives a tenant a property in any engine, machinery, fencing, or building for which he cannot get compensation, affixed after January 1st, 1884, so that it is removable by the tenant before or within a reasonable time after the termination of the tenancy, subject, however, to the tenant paying any rent due, etc., avoiding or making good damage, giving the landlord notice before removal and allowing him an option of purchase.
3. For ornament and convenience. The following are removable: - Hangings, tapestry, and pier glasses, whether nailed to the walls or panels or put up in lieu of panels, marble or other ornamental chimney pieces, marble slabs, window blinds, wainscot fixed to the walls by screws, grates, ranges, and stoves, although fixed in brickwork, iron backs to chimneys, beds fastened to the walls or ceiling, fixed tables, furnaces, and coppers, washtubs, and fixed water-tubs, coffee and malt mills, cupboards fixed with holdfasts, clock cases, iron ovens and the like, provided the separation occasions but little or no damage. The fixtures must be moved before the tenant's term or interest expires, unless in the case of a strict tenancy at will, when the tenant may be allowed a reasonable time after his tenancy, if his interest were not terminated by his own act.
As between the heir and the personal representative, the fixtures will generally pass with the freehold to the heir, but such of them as have been put up for ornament, domestic use or trade, devolve to the personal representative, provided they can be easily removed and are not essential to the enjoyment of the inheritance.