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Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker
BRMadigan@Rogers.com

RE/MAX West Realty Inc.,
Brokerage
Independently owned and operated

96 Rexdale Blvd. 
Toronto, Ontario 


Phone: 416-745-2300

Cell: 647-404-8150 
Toll Free: 1-888-507-0817

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Trailer as a Deck: Chattel or Fixture?

July 23, 2019 - Updated: July 23, 2019

The Trailer as a Deck: Chattel or Fixture?

Image may contain: house, sky and outdoor

 

 

You will want to have a careful look at this picture. There’s a structure, probably a modular home which has arrived on the property and been affixed to the ground by a foundation. So, for our purposes, we will assume that the building structure itself is a fixture.
 

Then, we have the trailer. It has arrived and been set in place or parked in the very position where you would have a deck. It provides walking access to the sliding glass doors, and hosts both a barbecue and an outside table.
 

The problem, of course, is that the trailer itself is still on 4 wheels and tires at the rear, and supported simply by its own weight at the front.
 

Is it a chattel or a fixture? For both real estate agents and lawyers, this is often a puzzling question.
 

The 15 Rules for Chattels and Fixtures

 

There are some basic rules, that is, legal tests that Courts will apply to figure this out.

 

Let me give you two statements from real estate vernacular which aren’t true:

 

  1. If it takes a tool to remove it…… then, it must be a fixture.
  2. Turn the house upside down and shake it…… all the chattels will fall out.

     

If you used these two statements as your guidelines, you probably would be right 60% of the time. No Court has ever used that!

 

Don’t you want a better batting average than that?

 

Here are the 15 Rules that you will find drawn from common law legal principles:

 

Rule #1 – if it is not attached, then it’s a chattel,
 

Rule #2 – unless the intention shows otherwise (fixture),
 

Rule #3 – if it is attached, then it’s a fixture,
 

Rule #4 – unless the intention shows otherwise (chattel),
 

Rule #5 – Rules 1 and 3 create rebuttable presumptions,
 

Rule #6 – The presumption may be rebutted by the degree of annexation,
 

Rule #7 – The presumption may be rebutted by object or purpose of annexation,
 

Rule #8 – the evidence required to rebut a presumption must be patent,
 

Rule #9 – intention is to be determined according to an objective test,
 

Rule # 10 - First items resting on their own weight or merely plugged in would be chattels,
 

Rule # 11 - unless appreciable damage would result from their removal,
 

Rule # 12 - Items otherwise attached would be fixtures,
 

Rule # 13 - When equipment is attached to a structure, all of its components are to be regarded as fixtures,
 

Rule # 14 - even a part that can be removed easily, if the removal of that part would render the machine/fixture inoperative,
 

Rule # 15 - Only in exceptional circumstances would one resort to the purpose test, as in the case of mobile homes or other expensive and large items.
 

 

Trailer Review
 

Let’s go through those legal rules and see if we can come up with a conclusion?
 

 

Rule #1 – if it is not attached, then it’s a chattel,

 

          The trailer is not attached.
 

 

Rule #2 – unless the intention shows otherwise (fixture),
 

 

          How can we be sure about intention?

 

Rule #3 – if it is attached, then it’s a fixture,

 

          The trailer is not attached.

 

Rule #4 – unless the intention shows otherwise (chattel),

 

          How can we be sure about intention?


 

Rule #5 – Rules 1 and 3 create rebuttable presumptions,

 

          Ok, that’s really no help.

 

Rule #6 – The presumption may be rebutted by the degree of annexation,
 

 

Annexation is the attachment to the property or the fixture being the trailer. It’s not attached to the trailer, but it rests upon the property by its own weight.

 

Rule #7 – The presumption may be rebutted by object or purpose of annexation,

 

This is an interesting question. Why is it there? What are we trying to accomplish here? It would seem that we are trying to create a deck for the building. It looks like a deck (in part), it provides access to the rear yard, and the sliding doors. It hosts a barbecue, just like a deck and it has a table for eating, again, just like a deck.
 

 

Rule #8 – the evidence required to rebut a presumption must be patent,

 

This simply means that the observation is highly visible. It is there for all to see. There are no hidden stories or secrets. An individual should be able to come to their own conclusion just by looking at it. No research is necessary. That means that you don’t have to look anything up. There are no contracts or leases or any kind of paperwork which will assist you here. Just stand back and take a look! What do you think?
 

Rule #9 – intention is to be determined according to an objective test,

 

This analysis uses an objective test not a subjective test. This means that we don’t have to track down Bob, the trucker, and ask him whether he just left it there for the party and was coming back the next day to pick it up, or whether the homeowner bought it and it was there forever, as far as he knew.


We are forced to come to a decision ourselves based upon what we think a reasonable person in Bob’s position would have done. And, we have to apply this test just by looking at it.

 

 

Rule # 10 - First items resting on their own weight or merely plugged in would be chattels,

 

Well, that would seem to make it a chattel, it’s just sitting there. There are no nails, screws or clamps or anything else holding it in place.
 

 

Rule # 11 - unless appreciable damage would result from their removal,

 

Again, this test would suggest that it be a chattel, since it looks like it could be hooked up to a truck and driven off.
 

 

Rule # 12 - Items otherwise attached would be fixtures,
 

 

          Really, there’s no actual attachment here.

 

Rule # 13 - When equipment is attached to a structure, all of its components are to be regarded as fixtures,
 

 

This simply means that the entire trailer would be considered as one entity, so it’s all a chattel or it’s all a fixture.

 

Rule # 14 - even a part that can be removed easily, if the removal of that part would render the machine/fixture inoperative,

 

 

So, I’m sure that the tires could be removed rather easily, but they stay with the trailer, you are not allowed to start taking it apart.
 

 

Rule # 15 - Only in exceptional circumstances would one resort to the purpose test, as in the case of mobile homes or other expensive and large items.
 

 

          So, permanent or temporary?
 

 

The Effect of Time
 

In this situation, “time” really is a major factor. How long has it been there? This information comes simply from observation. You don’t have to pull out any records, contracts, or deeds.
 

The trailer arrived as a chattel, but then again, everything does. Then, it was set in place. There was no real affixation or attachment to the property or the building, Now, we go to the purpose or intention. Certainly, it wasn’t parked there for the “better use of the trailer as a trailer”. It was parked there, to serve the purposes of a deck.
 

At this point, “time” is a big and major factor here. Was it just for the family reunion party? There would have to be actual visible evidence of that. If so, then it would simply be temporary.
 

However, if it’s been there “for years”, then, it would be reasonable to conclude that Bob is never coming back. It’s now part of the property. It’s not just sitting there as a trailer on a driveway. It’s new role is that of a deck!
 

Trailer as a Chattel
 

The trailer as a chattel, that’s Day 1.
 

Trailer as a Fixture
 

The trailer as a fixture, that’s Day10,950 (30 years).
 

Annexation to the Land
 

Sometime, while it’s there, the trailer undergoes a “metamorphosis”. It changes from a chattel to a fixture in law. This is the same type of analysis for mobile homes in trailer parks. They all start off as chattels, but after a long period of time, the tires deteriorate, the metal rims on the wheels dig themselves into the ground, the mobile home becomes completely immobile and therefore a fixture.
 

The owner of the mobile home will often attach a deck, put a picket fence around the perimeter to conceal the underside, the result being that after a decade or two, most people would say it’s a fixture and after three decades, just about everyone would say that it’s a fixture.
 

Agreement Governs
 

If you are the Seller and you want to take the trailer, then put it in the contract.
 

If you are the Buyer and you want the trailer to stay, then put it in the contract.
 

Caution: There’s a big difference between Day 1 and Day 10,950.
 

 

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker

www.iSourceRealEstate.com


Tagged with: trailer deck chattel fixture tests ontario law
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Brian Madigan LL.B. Broker

RE/MAX West Realty Inc. Brokerage

Independently owned and operated

96 Rexdale Blvd. , Toronto Ontario,

Phone: 416-745-2300

BRMadigan@Rogers.com

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