The term appurtenant refers to something that belongs to, or goes with something else. The appurtenant thing, or “appurtenance,” is less important than the property to which it belongs or is attached. The term appurtenant is commonly used in real estate law, but may have other uses as well. To explore this concept, consider the following appurtenant definition.

Definition of Appurtenant


  • Appertaining or belonging to something else.


1350-1400       Middle English    apertinent

What is an Appurtenance

In a legal context, an appurtenance is something that is attached to, or belongs to, a building or piece of land in such a manner that it is part of the property, such as a barn, or a yard. An appurtenance can be physical or abstract in nature, though it is something of lesser value than the actual property itself. Because an appurtenance is considered part of the property, it passes to a new owner upon sale or other transfer of the property.

What is Considered Appurtenant

An appurtenance can be something physical, or it may be abstract. A physical appurtenance is something tangible, such as a shed, a barn, a septic system, a well, or perhaps storage tanks for water. An abstract appurtenance may include such things as an agreement to not block the neighbor’s view of the pasture, or an easement. An easement is a right to use a portion of a property owned by someone else for some specific purpose, such as access for a driveway across a strip of the neighbor’s land.

For example:

The only way for Maria to access her property, which sits on the property behind Josh’s land, is to put a driveway across one corner of Josh’s property. Josh agrees to allow an easement for access to Maria’s property, which is recorded with parcel documents at the county recorder’s office.

When Mary sells her house, the easement, which is appurtenant to her property, automatically goes with the property when it is transferred to the new owner. This means that the new owner does not have to renegotiate an easement with Josh.

When purchasing a property, it is a good idea to consider what might be included in the purchase as an appurtenance. Everything from outbuildings to water rights, easements to appliances, may affect the value of the property, and if not included, may cause some substantial problem later on.

Generally speaking, anything that has been installed, and therefore has become part of the property, is considered to be appurtenant. Examples include:

  • In-ground swimming pool
  • In-ground or otherwise installed hot tub
  • Shed or other outbuilding
  • Fences
  • Trees, shrubs, sod
  • Landscaping improvements

For example:

Amber and Allen purchased a home with a large shed in the back yard that is perfect for Allen’s woodworking shop. The couple neglects to ask whether the shed is an included appurtenance to the property. When they arrive with the moving truck, they discover that the previous owner has taken the shed with him, leaving a large hole in the lawn.

What are Fixtures

A fixture is a type of personal property which, when attached to real estate in a permanent manner, becomes part of the real property. A fixture is incorporated into the property or land, and removing the fixture would cause damage to the property, therefore it remains with the property if the property is sold or transferred, making it appurtenant.

Difference Between Fixtures and Personal Property

When property is not connected to a piece of real property, it is known as personal property, or “chattel property.” Personal property is commonly taken by the owner if the real property is sold or transferred. In order to know the difference between fixtures and personal property, its purpose is considered. If an item’s purpose was to enhance the property, such as a swimming pool, or a patio awning, it is most likely an appurtenant fixture, and must be left behind.

For example:

If a yard contains a stack of lumber, the lumber is considered personal property. If the homeowner sells the house, he will likely take it with him, unless some other arrangement is made. If this lumber is used to build a fence around the yard, however, it is considered a fixture. This is because it has been installed to enhance the property. Removing it would damage the property, decreasing its value.

Abandoned Fixtures

An abandoned fixture is something that was installed in a rented or leased property, which becomes an appurtenance, and must therefore be left behind if the tenant leaves. This commonly includes upgrades to such items as ceiling fans, light fixtures, or showerheads. Because removing such a fixture may leave behind damage, or simply an empty space where the original fixture should have been, these types of items must be left in place at the end of the lease.

For example:

Rhonda leases a nice apartment in the city. After she moves in, she realizes that she doesn’t like the showerhead, which sprays randomly over her head. Rhonda gets permission from the landlord, then has someone install a nice, hand-held showerhead that cost her $90. The showerhead has now become an installed fixture, and it must be left behind at the end of Rhonda’s 2-year lease.

Trade Fixtures

A trade fixture is any piece of equipment on, or attached to, a piece of real property, which is used for business purposes. Businesses lease buildings or store fronts, and have their specialized equipment installed for their use. When they leave, even installed fixtures remain personal property, and may be taken with them. An example of this would be the cold boxes and display cases owned by a mini-market.

Trade fixtures are handled differently from fixtures in residential buildings or other properties, as it is always assumed they will be removed from the property, not left behind. If any damage is done by the installation of trade fixtures, the owner must compensate the property owner for repairs, or such damage is taken into account in the sale of the property. For this reason, trade fixtures are not usually considered to be appurtenant in a real property transfer. It is a good idea to be very specific when buying or selling such a property about whether such fixtures are appurtenances or not.

For example:

Dr. Abrams moves his dental office into a building on Main Street. He has dental chairs, special lights, and sinks installed in each exam room. Although this equipment has clearly been installed into the building, it is considered trade equipment, and may be taken out when Dr. Abrams moves to a new office ten years later.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Chattel – A piece of personal property
  • Personal Property – Any item that is moveable and not fixed to real property.
  • Real property – Land and property attached or fixed directly to the land, including buildings and structures.

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