Law School Case Brief
Strain v. Green - 25 Wash. 2d 692, 172 P.2d 216 (1946)
That the intention with which an article is placed upon the real estate is one of the elements to be taken into consideration in determining whether or not it remains a chattel or becomes a part of such real estate, but it does not follow that such intention can be shown by testimony as to the actual state of the mind of the person who attached the article to the real estate at the time it was attached. On the contrary his intention must be gathered from circumstances surrounding the transaction and from what was said and done at the time, and cannot be affected by his state of mind retained as a secret.
On August 7, 1943, Jacob Green agreed to sell to William Strain his waterfront home on Mercer Island for $35,000. The sale was payable as follows: Cash on delivery of sufficient Warranty Deed and evidence of clear title. It was, however, provided in the earnest money receipt that the "Greens are to have 60 days’ time to move out of the house." On August 20, 1943, Green and wife executed a statutory warranty deed to Strain and wife, which they duly acknowledged and delivered to the purchasers on August 27th, receiving the purchase price in full. At some time thereafter, the Greens left the premises, taking with them, from the basement, the hot water tank and enclosed electric heater, the venetian blinds from the windows, certain lighting fixtures, and three mirrors, two of which were rather firmly attached to the walls. The total value of the articles removed was alleged to be $1,105. On November 8, 1943, an attorney for the Strains, demanded, in writing, that all of taken property be returned to the premises. When that demand was ignored, the Strains brought an action in March 1944, in which they prayed for a judgment requiring the Greens to return the property, or, in case that that could not be done, for $1,105, and additional sums alleged to have been necessarily expended by the Strains on account of the removal from the property, or which they would be required to expend to reinstall it. The trial court held that some items were fixtures and had to be returned but that certain lights and mirrors were not fixtures. The Greens appealed, contending that the items in question were not fixtures to the realty, and that they had a right to remove them upon sale of the property.
Were certain lights and mirrors removed from the sold property considered fixtures, which the sellers should not remove?
According to the Washington Supreme Court, the criteria for a fixture was the united application of actual annexation to the realty, or something appurtenant thereto, application to the use or purpose to which that part of the realty with which it was connected was appropriated, and the intention of the party making the annexation to make a permanent accession to the freehold. Further, the Court ruled that when an owner of property affixed an article to the realty, the presumption was that there was an intent to create a fixture. As such, two mirrors, bolted to plywood that was attached to the wall, were fixtures. The Court opined that the replacement of different light fixtures for those removed by the sellers demonstrated an intent that light fixtures were part of the realty and therefore fixtures. Thus, the Court reversed the decision that held the disputed items were not fixtures that were sold with the property.
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