When the lease is over, a tenant is allowed to take any personal property (moveable) but generally must leave behind any fixtures (immovable). Even if the tenant installed a fixture, it may still belong to the landlord depending on the terms of the lease agreement.
In simple terms, a “fixture” is anything permanently attached to the land or the house. A fixture is deemed to be a part of the real estate itself. The real estate includes the land and any permanent improvements constructed on the land, such as a house. In addition to the house, the real estate includes anything that is permanently attached to the land (a fixture).
Since the landlord owns the real estate, tenants should be careful about investing money in anything that may merge into the real estate. Before being installed, it’s just personal property belonging to the tenant. But after it’s permanently “affixed” to the house or the land, it may automatically belong to the landlord.
This may come as a shock to many tenants. Generally, whoever bought an item of property owns that property. That’s just common sense! But under Oklahoma law and the terms of the lease agreement, a fixture installed by a tenant can transform into real estate and thus become the landlord’s property.
Of course, there are exceptions. The lease agreement and applicable law may create some protections for tenants. Therefore, it’s important to review the underlying lease and applicable law. Remember to check whether the property is residential or commercial, since that can impact the interpretation.
Some improvements may fall in the grey area in between fixture and personal property. For example, what if a semi-moveable cabinet is screwed to the wall, but not glued in? Many legal disputes arise from situations where the facts don’t fit either definition. If you’re struggling to determine whether something is a fixture or not, contact an attorney Jones Property Law for a legal opinion.