In this case, the question arose whether the sundial and shed are part of the large county house, Ashgreen manor purchased by Laura – that is if they were part of the land. In addition the mural painting that has been replaced with breeze blocks. I will start with the definition of land, the definitions of land are to be found in statute and common law; although there are many statutes that regulate land law, there is not a single and authoritative definition of land. To begin we can have a look at the partial definition land is defined in Law of Property Act, 1925 s.205 (1)(ix):
“‘Land’ includes land of any tenure, and mines and minerals, whether or not held apart from the surface, buildings or parts of buildings (whether the division is horizontal, vertical or made in any other way) and other corporeal hereditaments, also a manor, an advowson, and a rent and other incorporeal hereditaments, and an easement, right, privilege, or benefit in, over or derived from land…”
A fixture has been defined as an object that is attached to the land in such a way and for such a reason it becomes a part of the land. In the case of Laura and Steven, Steven being the former freehold owner of the property may fix things to the property and remove things again at will. It is only when the land is sold that you need to know who owns what specific subjects for example for tax purposes that the law on fixtures is relevant. When the land is sold, by contract both parties are free to make an agreement about fixtures and fittings. This is generally done by filling in a list supplied by their solicitors in which they identify exactly what is included in the sale and what is excluded. There is an old Latin maxim that summarises the law that on fixtures, ‘quicquid planatur solo, solo cedit’ which has been defined as ‘whatever is fixed to the land becomes part of it.’ To decide which objects form part of the land there is rulings and precedents set in the case of Holland V. Hodgson (1872) LR 7 CP 328. Blackburn J said that whether an object is a fixture or a chattel depends on two tests:
The degree of annexation;
The purpose of annexation.
In explaining this test Blackburn J went on to say that articles that are attached to the land only by weight are not usually considered to be part of the land, unless they were actually intended to form part of the land. In relating back to the case of Laura and Steven, using the test that was set out by Blackburn J; the sundial which has been removed is a chattel and was not intended to form part of the land as the purpose of the sundial was intended to make the property look more appealing and enhance the looks of the land. In addition, in the case of Berkley v. Poulett 1976 EWCA Civ 1, where what things was part of the land, one of them being a sundial; which was detached from the land, Stamp LJ concluded, “This particular statue if fixed at all to the plinth on which it stood was removed with minimal damage and in my judgment it did not lose its character as a chattel to be enjoyed as such by reason of being so fixed. Similar considerations in my judgment apply to the sundial, which was removed and was removed without any damage at all.” It was held that the sundial was placed for the better enjoyments as chattels. As in the case of Laura and Steven the sundial which was placed in the garden was used as chattels to enhance the enjoyments of the land and was removed easily which indicates that it was always intended to remain as a chattel and therefore classified as a chattel.
Moreover, to classify whether the wooden shed in the garden was either a fixture which has formed part of the land or a chattel we have to use the principles and tests from the case of Holland V. Hodgson (1872) LR 7 CP 328. It has been explained by Blackburn J that articles attached to the land only by their weight are not usually considered part of the land, unless they were actually intended to form part of the land. The use of a wooden shed can have various purposes for example, as a unit for storage for garden equipment. For a wooden shed to be detached and removed will not have been with ease, it has to be questioned whether the shed was to enhance the land permanently. The shed is and was attached to the land and thus part of the land. In Berkley v. Poulett 1976 EWCA Civ 1, Scarman LJ further explained, “If an object cannot be removed without serious damage to, or destruction of, some part of the realty, the case for its having become a fixture is a strong one”. In relation to the case of Laura and Steven the wooden shed could not have been removed without being destroyed making the claim for Laura against Steven particularly for the shed a strong case concluding the shed is classified as a fixture.
The next item which is missing is the painting which was painted by a famous artist and now has been replaced by a breeze of blocks. In the case of Berkley v. Poulett (1976) 120 Sol Jnl 836, the test in Holland V. Hodgson was applied. The court ruled that the pictures, although attached to the walls, were not fixtures; they were put on the walls to be enjoyed as pictures, rather than with the intention of making them part of the land. Using this ruling from this case it can be applied to the case of Laura and Stevens case. Steven had put up the painting on the wall for enjoyment and had the intention for the painting to be not part of the land. The paintings were affixed for the better enjoyment of them as paintings. As the painting was replaced by a breeze of blocks meaning it was not fixated and intended to be part of the land and therefore detached when Steven had moved out of the property. The painting in conclusion is classified as a chattel in the property and Steven had no intention of making the painting form part of the land as this was more of his personal property. Therefore, Lauras case in claiming the painting as a missing item will fail, in addition the painting does not fall in the definition of a fixture and Steven has the right to take the painting from the estate as it is his personal belonging.