Do TVs Mounted on the Wall Stay with the House or Go with Sellers?

Question

I am the Buyer’s Agent.  When the Buyer made an offer on the house, the Sellers had several TVs mounted on the walls.  The Buyer and I assumed those TVs stayed with the house and the Buyer DID NOT reserve the TVs.

We did our final walk-through yesterday and all of the TVs are gone but the wall-mount systems for each TV remain on the wall. 

Are the Sellers allowed to take the TVs?

Answer

This question touches on what is deemed a “fixture”?

The answer to what is deemed a “fixture” is very convoluted.  

According to professor Steve Knippenberg, Professor of Law at the University of Oklahoma College of Law: “You take the world, you shake it, and everything that doesn’t fall off is [a fixture].”

However, in Louisiana, generally speaking, a fixture is an item attached to a house that cannot be removed without damage to the house.  

In other words, if removal of the item hanging on the wall would cause damage to the property, then that item is a fixture and stays with the house.  Conversely, if removal of the item hanging on the wall would not cause damage to the property, then that item is not a fixture and the sellers can take the item with them.  

The Louisiana Residential Purchase Agreement attempts to address fixtures in lines 10-17 of the Purchase Agreement wherein the following is stated:

“…all buildings, structures, component parts, and all installed, built-in, permanently attached improvements, together with all fences, security systems, all installed speakers or installed sound systems, all landscaping, all outside TV antennas, all satellite dishes, all installed and/or built-in appliances, all ceiling fans, all air conditioning or heating systems including window units, all bathroom mirrors, all window coverings, blinds and associated hardware, all shutters, all flooring, all carpeting, all cabinet tops, all cabinet knobs or handles, all doors, all door knobs or handles, all windows, all roofing, all electrical systems, and all installed lighting fixtures, chandeliers and associated hardware, other constructions permanently attached to the ground.”

The first question that needs to be asked in your scenario is:  “Are wall-mounted TVs specifically listed in lines 10-17 of the Purchase Agreement?”

The answer is, “No.”  So, at first glance it would appear as though wall-mounted TVs are not considered fixtures and can be taken by Sellers.  

But our inquiry doesn’t stop there.  The next question that needs to be asked is:  “Are wall-mounted TVs considered “installed, built-in, and permanently attached improvements?”  Or stated another way, “Can the TVs be removed without damage to the property?”

The answer to this second question is most likely “maybe.”

If the TVs were mounted to the wall by attaching the TVs to a wall-mount (as we have in this case), then Sellers have a good argument the TVs can be removed without damage to the house so long as the Sellers leave the wall-mounts with the house.  

However, if the TVs were installed into the wall and removing the TV would leave holes and/or damaged sheet-rock, then the Buyer has a good argument that the TVs need to remain with the house.  (For an illustration of this: I have seen some TVs installed in the framing and sheet-rock with what appears to be a picture frame and painting hung on the wall in front of the TV and when the home owner hits a button the painting drops down and you can see the TV behind the painting.)   

The lesson here:  it is better to avoid any grey areas in the future by reserving all wall-mounted TVs for your Buyers.