What Is Appurtenance?

Appurtenance is a legal term denoting the attachment of a right or property to a more worthy principal. Appurtenance occurs when the attachment becomes part of the property such as a furnace or air conditioning unit. 

Appurtenance can also be an object or privilege associated with status, title, or affluence.

Key Takeaways

  • Appurtenance is used to describe an improvement to what is usually a physical property, which then becomes the legal property of what it was improved upon.
  • Appurtenance can have many different meanings and applications such as in real estate, natural resources, and even items owned by the wealthy, including estates or luxury cars.
  • It is important to ascertain the context of which property is being referred to when discussing appurtenances.

Understanding Appurtenance

Appurtenance is usually applicable to property rights or items that are permanent and are passed along with the sale of the property. An appurtenance is a real property, which has been defined as being immovable or fixed to the land. In this case, appurtenances relate to the land.

When considering legal transactions, appurtenances grant the ownership of certain items to a person who owns the property. For example, once a tenant installs a new water tank into the apartment, they usually can not remove the appurtenance because it would then be considered part of the property.

More examples of appurtenances include in-ground swimming pools, a fence, or a shed that are all fixed to the land. The term can also be used to describe the acreage behind a home. This plot of land, or the backyard, is generally viewed as being part of the property—an appurtenance of the house. Appurtenances also include rights to natural resources found in the land, such as water, minerals, or oil, as well as improvements to the property and easements.

Property rights are typically sold with the home and include appurtenances.

In the 1919 case of Cohen v. Whitcomb, the Supreme Court of Minnesota (citing Webster's dictionary) defined appurtenance as "That which belongs to something else. Something annexed to another thing more worthy." The case revolved around a debate about ownership of a hot water heater installed at the property by the tenant. The lease stated that any repairs or improvements made by the tenant became part of the property and, therefore, was the landlord's property.

Special Consideration: Alternate Meanings

The idea of appurtenances also appears in the field of psychology. The Gestalt theory likens appurtenances to a sense of belonging or the relationship between two factors that directly influence each other, such as fields of color. The two fields of color may, in fact, be different. But the way they interact with one another may appear to the viewer that they should belong together as one.

Appurtenances are also commonly used to describe people who belong to a specific country or region of the world. For example, someone from India may describe themselves as a desi person, or someone of the land. Similarly, an Israeli is someone who is from Israel, while the word American is used to describe someone from the United States.

People may make references to the appurtenances of wealth or celebrity. These often include sports cars, mansions, and designer clothing. In this case, the items would be considered an appurtenance since they are part of that celebrity's "estate," or image.