When we talk about an appurtenance in real estate, we are referring to the legal term that’s used to describe the relationship between a property and an item (aka personal property) or right of lesser value.
An appurtenance describes the relationship between something that is attached to a piece of property and the piece of property itself. It’s something that when it is attached to the property, it stays with the property when it changes hands.
We can also describe an appurtenance as an improvement to a property. When the item is attached to a piece of real property, it becomes the legal property of the asset it is affixed to.
Let’s try to clarify that a little with an example.
If a property owner purchases a new stove and has it installed into the home, it becomes a permanent fixture to the property. When the property is listed for sale, the stove will be a fixture that is implicitly included in the sale because of an appurtenance.
Other common items that fall under an appurtenance are:
- Light fixtures
- Ceiling fans
- A shed
As a real estate agent, why is it important for you to understand what an appurtenance is?
Appurtenances are important in both a property sale as well as tenant/landlord relationship.
If a tenant installs a new built-in microwave into their rental unit, that fixture becomes a part of the real property and therefore legally belongs to the property owner i.e. the landlord, not the tenant.
What about a property sale?
If a property has an expensive feature chandelier, it is assumed to be an appurtenance of the house and will therefore be included in the sale. When personal property is fixed to real property, thus becoming part of the real property, it is called annexation.
However, sometimes items such as this can lead to a misunderstanding between a buyer and seller. If there are any items in the property that a buyer wants included in the sale but that may lead to a misunderstanding, it is important that the buyer’s agent lists those items in the offer.
The term appurtenance also includes the rights to natural resources on the land such as mineral rights, water, oil, or an unharvested crop that is still growing in the soil.
Once a natural resource is separated from the real property, such as when a tree is cut down, it becomes personal property. This term used to describe real property becoming personal property is called severance.