Do you stay in a furnished property?
Have you ever had an issue with your landlord or tenant with respect to the fixtures and fittings in the property?
Are you currently having issues with one of the fittings in your apartment and not sure who is to fix same or you have no idea of what is to be regarded as a fixture or fitting?
Do you want to avoid future fixtures and fittings problems with your landlord or tenants?
Then, this write up is just for you!
Let us begin by defining the meaning of the terms "Fixtures" and "Fittings" for a clear understanding of the topic.
In simple terms, a "fixture" is any item that is bolted to the floor or walls. It is usually fixed or attached to something permanently as an appendage and is not removable from the land, house or other forms of real property that it is affixed to. In other words, it is annexed to a property in such a way that it is regarded as a part of the real property.
Annexation to the property occurs when the object is permanently affixed to the property through the application of plaster, cement, bolts, screws, nuts, or nails.
Fixtures could be domestic, ornamental, agricultural or trade. Domestic and ornamental fixtures are usually affixed to a property in order to make it more comfortable for human habitation, while agricultural fixtures are attached strictly for farming objectives. Trade fixtures are items affixed by traders who have rented a property for business purposes.
It is important to note that the attached article must also be adapted to the intended use or purpose of the property so that it effectively becomes inseparable from the property itself. Ownership to fixtures passes with the property.
Examples of fixtures includes but not limited to the following:
- Bathroom suite (sink/bath/toilet)
- Central-heating boilers, radiators or coolants
- Built in wardrobes/cupboards
- Paintings inscribed on the wall
- Kitchen units
- Light equipment
- Chimney grates
- Beds fastened to walls
- Kitchen Islands
- Sprinkler System
On the other hand, "Fittings" are items that are free standing or hung by a nail or hook, in most instances the tenant removes the fittings from the property at the expiration of the tenancy, however this is subject to the agreement between the Landlord and Tenant.
These include but are not limited to the following:
- Paintings or mirrors that are not bolted but hung or screwed to a wall
- Free-standing ovens, refrigerators, air conditioning units and washing machines
- Beds/sofas and other free standing items of furniture
- Television aerials and satellite dishes
Currently, there are no laws making provisions for fixtures and fittings in Nigeria. The Tenancy Law of Lagos State, 2011 is also completely silent on the subject. The absence of a legal framework for the regulation of fixtures and fittings in Nigeria can and does usually generate issues between landlords and tenants. For example, if one stays in a furnished apartment and one of the fittings goes faulty or becomes due for maintenance during the tenancy, the question that readily begs for an answer is who should be responsible for the repair or maintenance?
Perhaps in the absence of a legal provision, it is suggestive that the remedy is to regulate these issues with the law of contract given that the landlord-tenant relationship is a contractual one. It is trite that in matters of contract, the Parties are bound by the express terms of their contract, hence it is advisable to state clearly who is responsible for the repair or maintenance of a fixture in the tenancy agreement and perhaps also identify the fixtures and fittings in the Apartment. In most western countries and in line with international best practices, all regular maintenance is usually borne by the Landlord but maintenance arising from the tenant's fault is borne by the tenant except otherwise agreed.
Other questions that may arise from the subject of fixtures and fittings includes:
- What items can or cannot be affixed to the property by the tenant?
- What is the agreed time for the removal of tenant's fittings and fixtures? (Should this be during or after the expiration of the tenancy?)
- Who is to bear the liability for the damage that occurs during removal?
Some or these questions again may be left with no definite answers in the absence of legislation. It is therefore pertinent for parties to a tenancy agreement to fully deliberate on the issues relating to the fixtures and fittings of the property and expressly incorporate same in the tenancy agreement. The solicitor engaged in drafting a tenancy agreement should utilise words that expressly depict the roles and responsibilities of the parties and leave no room for ambiguity.
In addition, it is advisable that both parties:
- Take an inventory of the fixtures and fittings in the property before the commencement of the tenancy.
- Determine the state or status of such fixtures and fittings before the commencement and ensure it is properly documented.
- Clearly spell out in the tenancy agreements, the terms and conditions of the tenancy and the roles and responsibilities of the parties as it relates to the fixtures and fittings.
Finally, as there is currently no law dealing with fixtures and fittings it may be prudent to engage a solicitor grounded in real estate law and practice to draft and reflect the intentions of the parties in the tenancy agreement prior to the commencement of same.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.