If You Buy the House: Do you Get the Keys?

This is a simple enough question.

If you ask people; 99% will reply that keys are a part of the house. In fact, they are part of the locking system for a house.

There are two parts:

1) the lock which is affixed permanently to the door, and

2) the key which provides access to the house by “unlocking” the lock.

So far, so good. Most people don’t seem to find it strange that the key is actually “detached”. It is not nailed, screwed or glued to the house in any way.

Yet, in a legal sense, it is affixed or annexed to the house.

If you buy a house, you get the key to the house, and it comes as a fixture. How would you like to buy a house and not get the key!

In any event, there are still some people who will say that it’s a chattel because it’s not attached. These same people say that the answer is always simple because a fixture is attached by glue, cement, screws, bolts etc.

But, that has nothing to do it with.

The test is the intention of the person who affixed the chattel. That intention is determined on an objective basis, not subjective.

So, that means that we don’t care about the actual person, we simply consider what a reasonable person would have intended in similar circumstances.

The key was part of the locking mechanism for the house. The purpose was to restrict and control entry to the house. A reasonable person placing a lock on the house would be intending to benefit the house. It would have nothing to do with the key, benefiting the key, or promoting the individual role of the key.

A TV attached by bolts to the wall, is for the better viewing on the TV (a chattel); it’s not to make the house a better house.

So, that also means that the combination to the padlock on the back shed is also a fixture. It doesn’t even exist, it’s just a thought, however, it’s a chattel.

The same analysis would apply to the alarm code. It’s a fixture, and it goes with the house if nothing is said. Again, it would be “intellectual property” and it cannot be cemented, glued, screwed or bolted to the building.

Now, the key to the City…… would be a chattel.

Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker


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