Fixtures and the "Purpose of Annexation" Test

Graw, Stephen (2000) Fixtures and the "Purpose of Annexation" Test. Queensland Lawyer, 21 (1). pp. 32-39.

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Abstract

Whether a chattel has been so attached to land as to have become in law a fixture, is often said to be a question of fact which can only be determined by looking at the particular circumstances of each case. Indeed, as Blackburn J said in Holland v Hodgson:

There is no doubt that the general maxim of the law is, that what is annexed to the land becomes part of the land; but it is very difficult, if not impossible, to say with precision what constitutes an annexation sufficient for this purpose.

He went on to say:

It is a question which must depend on the circumstances of each case, and mainly on two circumstances, as indicating the intention, viz, the degree of annexation and the object of the annexation.

The degree of annexation by itself is not determinative, because the degree of annexation need not necessarily reflect the intention behind the affixing. In other words, something may be only lightly affixed to the land but could still be a fixture, and yet another thing might be firmly affixed but because the appropriate intention is lacking, it might remain in law a chattel; a fact which Blackburn J illustrated, saying:

Thus blocks of stone placed one on the top of another without any mortar or cement for the purpose of forming a dry stone wall would become part of the land, though the same stones, if deposited in a builder's yard and for convenience sake stacked on the top of each other in the form of a wall, would remain chattels. On the other hand, an article may be very firmly fixed to the land, and yet the circumstances may be such as to shew that it was never intended to be part of the land, and then it does not become part of the land. The anchor of a large ship must be very firmly fixed in the ground in order to bear the strain of the cable, yet no one could suppose that it became part of the land … An anchor similarly fixed in the soil for the purpose of bearing the strain of the chain of a suspension bridge would be part of the land.

In Australia, whether a chattel has become a fixture has often been resolved by referring to Jordan CJ's decision in Australian Provincial Assurance Co Ltd v Coroneo, and in particular to the passage where his Honour says:

The question whether a chattel has become a fixture depends upon whether it has been fixed to land, and if so for what purpose. If a chattel is actually fixed to land to any extent, by any means other than its own weight, then prima facie it is a fixture … if it is not otherwise fixed but is kept in position by its own weight, then prima facie it is not a fixture … The test of whether a chattel which has been to some extent fixed to land is a fixture is whether it has been fixed with the intention that it shall

Item ID: 13034
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0312-1658
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2013 05:16
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