Whatever is affixed to the soil belongs to the soil.
This maxim applies to all those cases where one builds, plants, sows, etc., upon the land of another ; in which cases, prima facie, and without any evidence of consent or agreement to the contrary, the buildings erected, trees planted, seed sown, become at once the property of the owner of the land.
The application of the maxim in practice is generally conversely, on a question of fixtures. Formerly, if a tenant or occupier of a house, or land, annexed anything to the freehold, neither he nor his representatives could afterwards take it away ; but now, the temporary owner or occupier of real property or his representatives has a right to remove certain articles, though annexed by him to the freehold, and those articles are called fixtures. That is, those articles which were originally personal chattels, and which, though they have been annexed to the freehold by a temporary occupier for a temporary purpose, are nevertheless removable at the will of the person who annexed them. The term fixture does not, however, include everything fixed and rendered immovable, but the object of the annexation must be looked at, and, if a chattel be fixed to a building for the more complete enjoyment and user of it as a chattel, and not as absolutely necessary for the user of the building itself as such, it is not a fixture at all, but a chattel still. When the principle of this maxim was first adopted, fixtures as now understood were not known, and the maxim was then applicable to all things affixed to the freehold indiscriminately ; now, however; it is in strictness applicable only to those particular things which do not come under the denomination of fixtures, inasmuch as those things which may of right be severed from the freehold cannot be said of right to form part of the freehold.
Fixtures are considered as divided into three kinds, landlord's, tenant's, and trade fixtures, and, as such, may, strictly speaking, be considered exceptions to the above general maxim, and as having particular rights annexed to them, which render the rule inapplicable ; and the maxim may not improperly be said to apply to those cases only which do not come within the term fixtures as above used, but to those cases only in which the maxim applies absolutely. For, under the maxim, whatever is affixed to the soil belongs to the soil, becomes part of it, and is subject to the same rights as the soil itself, which is not the case with fixtures as above defined, which are, notwithstanding their being so fixed, subject to certain rights inconsistent with their forming part of the freehold, and of their being the absolute property of the owner of the fee.
Where the owner of the freehold affixes anything in the nature of a fixture to the soil, for the permanent use and enjoyment of the soil, that forms part of it, as though it had been originally built upon and incorporated with it ; but it.cannot be so said of fixtures which were attached to the freehold in a restricted sense for a particular purpose, and by some one not having any interest in the freehold.
The maxim, however, may be said to apply in its strict sense to all those cases where buildings are erected upon land, or fixtures affixed to buildings, by a man upon his own land or by one man upon the land of another. In which eases, in the absence of any express or implied agreement to the contrary, the buildings and fixtures belong to the owner of the soil.