State v. Hardy, 242 N.C. App. 146 (Jul. 7, 2015)

In this injury to real property case, the court held that an air conditioning unit that was attached to the exterior of a mobile home was real property. The defendant dismantled and destroyed the unit, causing extensive water damage to the home. The trial court instructed the jury that “[a]n air conditioner affixed to a house is real property” and the jury found the defendant guilty of this offense. On appeal the defendant argued that the air conditioning unit was properly classified as personal property. The court rejected the argument that State v. Primus, 742 S.E.2d 310 (2013), controlled, finding that case did not resolve the precise issue at hand. After reviewing other case law the court determined that the air-conditioner would be real property if it was affixed to the mobile home such that it “became an irremovable part of the [mobile home].” Applying this test, the court concluded:

The air-conditioner at issue … comprised two separate units: an inside unit, referred to as the A-coil, which sat on top of the home’s heater, and an outside condensing unit, which had a compressor inside of it. The two units were connected by copper piping that ran from the condenser underneath the mobile home into the home. [A witness] testified that the compressor, which was located inside the condensing unit, had been totally “destroyed,” and that although the condensing unit itself remained in place, it was rendered inoperable. Thus, . . . the entire air-conditioner could not be removed but had to be “gutted” and removed in pieces. Moreover, when defendant cut the copper piping underneath the home, he caused significant damage to the water pipes that were also located in the crawlspace. Thus, here, not only could the air-conditioner not be easily removed from the mobile home but it also could not be easily removed from other systems of the home given the level of enmeshment and entanglement with the home’s water pipes and heater.

The court went on to note that while the mobile home could serve its “contemplated purpose” of providing a basic dwelling without the air-conditioner, the purpose for which the air-conditioner was annexed to the home supports a conclusion that it had become part of the real property: the use and enjoyment of the tenant.