The classification of an item as a fixture or a fitting can often prove to be of surprising importance to a commercial tenant. The meaning of the words alone can be confusing.
It is in particular as the end of a tenant’s lease approaches that tenants usually turn their minds to how best to try to comply with the lease covenants, in order to limit the risk of being on the receiving end of a large dilapidations claim from its landlord. Whether an item is a fixture or a fitting might cause a tenant difficulties when trying to comply with those lease covenants. For example, if the lease refers to the need for the tenant to keep a landlord’s fixtures in good repair, then how does the tenant know whether an item is a “fixture”, rather than a fitting and whether it must therefore must be repaired?
The classification of items as fixtures or fittings can also pose problems for tenants attempting to comply with break options. Landlord-friendly break clauses commonly require the tenant to give vacant possession in order to successfully break the lease. Leaving a tenant’s fittings in the premises on the break date could give the landlord cause to argue that the tenant has failed to give up vacant possession, with the result being that they have not satisfied the break option requirements and therefore the lease must run to the end of its contractual term.
In this article we consider the distinction between fixtures and fittings, and take a look at a recent case highlighting some of the difficulties surrounding the topic.