British Economical Lamp Co v Empire Mile End [1913] 29 TLR 386

The definition of fixtures versus chattels

Facts

The claimant let electrical lamp fittings to lessees of a theatre. The lamps were attached to their brackets using a bayonet attachment. The defendant was the owner of the theatre who took possession of it from the lessee for non-payment of rent. When possession was taken, the lamps remained in the theatre and were not initially requested by the claimant. However, shortly afterwards, the claimant sought the return of the lamp, but the defendant refused to give them up and the claimant sued.

Issue

The issue that was to be addressed in these circumstances was whether lamps which form part of a lighting system but which are not firmly annexed to a property are fixtures or chattels.

Held

It was held that although the lamp was attached to the socket, the attachment was only temporary with the purpose being the use of the lamp itself. The lamps do not form part of the electrical installation and do not cease to be chattels simply because they have been plugged in to the electrical installation. The installation is complete without the lamps attached. The result was that these lamps remained chattels and therefore the claimant could not recover them from the defendant.