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Shed not included: B.C. tribunal says structure not covered in sales contract

A backyard shed is shown in this undated photo. (Image credit: Shutterstock) A backyard shed is shown in this undated photo. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

A dispute over whether or not a shed was included when a B.C. woman purchased a $615,000 property has been settled by the province's small claims tribunal.

Meghan Smith was seeking $2,000 in compensation, arguing that the shed – which was shown in the listing photos and present when she viewed the property – should not have been removed before she took possession.

For his part, the seller, Christopher McGillis, said the shed was not included in the sales contract and was removed by a tenant who owned it and had used it to store tools.

Tribunal member Alison Wake was left to interpret a clause in the contract saying that the purchase and sale included "any buildings, improvements, fixtures, appurtenances and attachments thereto." The contract, Wake noted, did not further define these items.

Smith argued that the dictionary definition of the terms in the contract supported her claim that the shed was one of the items covered by the clause. However, she did not "identify the specific definition she says is applicable," Wake said, before exploring the meaning of he terms in detail.

What is a fixture?

The decision explains that there is a key difference between whether something is a fixture or personal property, legally referred to as chattel.

"In general, if an item is not attached to the land other than by its own weight, it is presumed to be personal property. However, if the item is attached to the land even slightly, it is presumed to be a fixture," Wake said in in the decision.

Smith argued the shed was fastened to a wooden platform, and therefore a fixture. However, the decision found the platform itself was not attached to the land and so neither was the shed that sat upon it.

What is a building?

Wake used the Merriam-Webster and Oxford dictionaries to decide whether the shed could be considered a building. A roof and four walls are essential components, the decision said, but buildings are also defined as built to be permanent.

"There is no dispute that the shed in question had walls and a roof. However, the parties disagree about whether it was intended to be permanent," Wake wrote.

The shed, McGillis told the tribunal, was removed by the tenant to whom it belonged. The apparent ease with which this was accomplished, the decision said, suggested it was not intended to be permanent but was "relatively portable" and therefore not a building.

As for the other three terms in the contract's clause – Wake found none of them applied to the shed either.

"In summary, I find the shed is not included in the contract. So, I dismiss Ms. Smith’s claim for the shed’s replacement cost," the decision concludes. Top Stories

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