An appurtenance is something lesser that is attached to something larger. In law, this term is often used in the context of real estate. One can be physical or intangible in nature, and it becomes attached to something else by law or by convention. Sometimes, people may refer to something “with appurtenances” as a reminder that there are things attached. People should take note of any attachments that go with something because they can affect its utility, function, or value.
In real estate, a physical appurtenance is something attached to a property that is of lesser value than the property itself. One example is a shed on a property holding a single family home. The shed goes with the property and is considered part of it, which means that it will not be removed when the property is sold. Other examples are things like garages, septic systems, wells, water storage tanks, and so forth.
Such attachments can also be things that are intangible in nature, such as easements. An easement gives someone else the legal right of enjoyment and is attached to a property in the same way that something physical like a well is. For example, a driveway easement is an appurtenance. When the property is sold, the easement goes with it. In this case, the attachment to the property is provided for the convenience of someone else, but the property owner is expected to respect it.
When evaluating real estate for purchase or rental, people should take note of the appurtenances. For example, someone renting a unit should ask if it comes with appliances, such as a stove and refrigerator, or not. If it does, they are considered attached to the home being leased and the landlord is responsible for maintaining them. If it does not, the tenant is expected to provide them and the landlord takes no responsibility for their installation and upkeep.
People purchasing property should be aware of what does and does not come with it, and some of these things can be negotiable. For example, a buyer could ask that a portable shed be left on the property as part of the sales agreement. Conversely, a buyer could ask that something attached to the property be removed as a condition of sale, or that the buyer be given a discount to handle the disposition of something that is attached to the property.
What Is An Appurtenance In Real Estate?
To determine if something is a physical appurtenance, it must meet the following criteria:
- You must install the appurtenance in a way that makes it permanent. For example, items must be bolted onto the home, cemented into the ground, or connected to the home’s wiring. Any property that you can move easily is considered personal property and does not belong to the real estate.
- You must intend on permanently keeping the appurtenance with the property.
- The appurtenance must be removable without causing damage to the structure of the home. If an item is so permanent that removing it would destroy part of the property, it is part of the real estate and not something separate. An example is a ceiling fan that can be removed and replaced with a light fixture or a shed that can be disassembled and taken away. While neither project is easy or fast, neither destroys the house in the process.
What Are Some Appurtenances Examples?
You may find appurtenances in many different areas on a property. Some may be located inside the home, but they are often around the main house’s exterior. Here is a closer look at some examples.
Inside the Home
Most items inside a home are considered personal property. However, there are a few exceptions. Items hard-wired to the home’s electrical system, such as lights and ceiling fans, are appurtenances. While you can remove these items, a new owner usually expects to have the fans and lights as they were when they purchased the home. This also includes cabinets in the bathrooms and the kitchen, built-in bookshelves, and hard-wired appliances like the air conditioner and water heater.
Structures Attached to the Land
If your home has an unattached garage, a workshop or a barn on the land next to it, then these are considered appurtenances because they are not connected to the primary residence. Sometimes a new owner purchases one house over another because of a large workshop or a barn for their animals, so it’s always a good idea to include these items on a list of appurtenances when selling your home.
Land Behind the House
Your home's backyard may contain items that you have added to create a livable space. Some of these appurtenances may be:
- A garden
- Paver Stones
- In-ground swimming pools and pumps
When you purchase a home, make sure you have a clear understanding of what’s included in the sale, so you aren’t surprised if something's been removed when you move in.
Natural Resources Located on the Property
Sometimes land may contain oil, minerals and other resources such as a creek. These resources stay with the land, and the owner has the right to use them. When the property is sold, the ownership of the resources changes to the purchaser.
Appurtenances in Rental Homes
Rental homes have the same appurtenances as a house where the owner lives. However, the items belong to the homeowner and not the renter. Many leases list which things belong with the home, such as the refrigerator and stove, so there’s no confusion about who those appliances belong to. If a resident improves the home or installs a new water heater, those items stay with the house when the tenant moves out, regardless of who paid for them.
An easement is an intangible appurtenance that gives someone else access to your property. This access is usually very specific, and its purpose is clearly defined. An excellent example of an easement is a shared driveway or a pathway that makes land-locked property accessible. While this driveway may cross over the land of a single owner, a property easement allows you access to the adjacent home. This means that if the owner of the home with the driveway sells their house, the new owner cannot decide to prevent your access because the easement protects you. Other common easements are drainage runoffs, utility lines or pipes and access to a mailbox. Not all easements are documented on a deed, so ensure you understand the usage arrangements before purchasing land.
What Isn’t Considered an Appurtenance?
While there are several different types of appurtenances, there are many things in a home that aren't considered one. This includes personal belongings, decorations, furniture, lamps and area rugs. These items remain with you, and you should remove them when you move out of the property.