When a tenant installs an item in an apartment, such as track lighting, a chandelier, cabinetry, etc., which item is removable, but is attached to the wall, ceiling or floor of the premises, the installed item is known as a “fixture.” The standard rule in real estate law is that a fixture becomes a permanent improvement to the premises and may not be removed without the consent of the owner of the premises. However, in the area of landlord tenant law the courts generally have a bias in favor of allowing a tenant to remove a fixture when the tenant vacates an apartment; although that bias is conditioned upon there being no material damage caused to the premises by the removal of the fixture. If the landlord wants the fixture to remain then the landlord must show that the tenant intended or agreed that the fixture would remain at the premises. Additionally, or alternatively, if the landlord can show that the removal of the fixture would cause material damage to the premises then the court will likely not allow the removal of the fixture unless the tenant pays for the necessary restoration of the unit after the removal of the fixture. So, in the area of landlord tenant law the general rule is if a fixture can be removed without causing any material damage to the premises then the fixture may be removed, unless the landlord can show it was intended by the tenant that the fixture become a permanent part of the premises or that the removal will cause material damage to the premises.
I advise all tenants to first check with their landlords before installing a fixture. Indeed, most written tenancy agreements require the landlord’s advance approval to install a fixture. The landlord and the tenant should then enter into a written agreement to establish whether the fixture will stay or go when the tenant moves out.
At Topkins & Bevans we have years of experience in handling commercial and residential evictions on behalf of landlords as well as tenants. If you have need of an eviction attorney please contact Topkins & Bevans so that a skilled attorney may assess your case and guide you through the process