Real property

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In English common law, real property, real estate, realty, or immovable property is land which is the property of some person and all structures (also called improvements or fixtures) integrated with or affixed to the land, including crops, buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, and roads, among other things. The term is historic, arising from the now-discontinued form of action, which distinguished between real property disputes and personal property disputes. Personal property was, and continues to be, all property that is not real property.

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In countries with personal ownership of real property, civil law protects the status of real property in real-estate markets, where estate agents work in the market of buying and selling real estate. Scottish civil law calls real property "heritable property", and in French-based law, it is called immobilier ("immovable property").

Historical background

The word "real" derives from Latin res ("thing"), which was used in Middle English to mean "relating to things, especially real property". [1]

In common law, real property was property that could be protected by some form of real action, [2] in contrast to personal property, where a plaintiff would have to resort to another form of action. As a result of this formalist approach, some things the common law deems to be land would not be classified as such by most modern legal systems: for example, an advowson (the right to nominate a priest) was real property. By contrast the rights of a leaseholder originate in personal actions and so the common law originally treated a leasehold as part of personal property. [3]

The law now broadly distinguishes between real property (land and anything affixed to it) and personal property (everything else, e.g., clothing, furniture, money). The conceptual difference was between immovable property, which would transfer title along with the land, and movable property, which a person would retain title to.

In modern legal systems derived from English common law, classification of property as real or personal may vary somewhat according to jurisdiction or, even within jurisdictions, according to purpose, as in defining whether and how the property may be taxed.

Bethell (1998) contains much information on the historical evolution of real property and property rights.

Identification of real property

To be of any value, a claim to any property must be accompanied by a verifiable and legal property description. Such a description usually makes use of natural or man-made boundaries such as seacoasts, rivers, streams, the crests of ridges, lakeshores, highways, roads, and railroad tracks or purpose-built markers such as cairns, surveyor's posts, iron pins or pipes, concrete monuments, fences, official government surveying marks (such as ones affixed by the National Geodetic Survey), and so forth. In many cases, a description refers to one or more lots on a plat, a map of property boundaries kept in public records.

These legal descriptions are usually described in two different ways – metes & bounds, and lot & block. A third way is the Public Land Survey System [4] , as used in the United States.

Estates and ownership interests defined

The law recognizes different sorts of interests called estates, in real property. The type of estate is generally determined by the language of the deed, lease, bill of sale, will, land grant, etc., through which the estate was acquired. Estates are distinguished by the varying property rights that vest in each, and that determine the duration and transferability of the various estates. A party enjoying an estate is called a "tenant".

Some important types of estates in land include:

A tenant enjoying an undivided estate in some property after the termination of some estate of limited term, is said to have a "future interest". Two important types of future interests are:

Estates may be held jointly as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or as tenants in common. The difference in these two types of joint ownership of an estate in land is basically the inheritability of the estate and the shares of interest that each tenant owns.

In a joint tenancy with rights of survivorship deed, or JTWROS, the death of one tenant means that the surviving tenants become the sole owners of the estate. Nothing passes to the heirs of the deceased tenant. In some jurisdictions, the specific words "with right of survivorship" must be used, or the tenancy will assumed to be tenants in common without rights of survivorship. The co-owners always take a JTWROS deed in equal shares, so each tenant must own an equal share of the property regardless of any contribution to purchase price. If the property is someday sold or subdivided, the proceeds must be distributed equally with no credits given for any excess than any one co-owner may have contributed to purchase the property.

The death of a co-owner of a tenants in common (TIC) deed will have a heritable portion of the estate in proportion to his ownership interest which is presumed to be equal among all tenants unless otherwise stated in the transfer deed. However, if TIC property is sold or subdivided, in some States, Provinces, etc., a credit can be automatically made for unequal contributions to the purchase price (unlike a partition of a JTWROS deed).

Real property may be owned jointly with several tenants, through devices such as the condominium, housing cooperative, and building cooperative.

Bundle of Rights

Real property is unique because there are multiple rights associated with each piece of property. For example, most U.S. jurisdictions recognized the following rights: right to sell; right to lease; right to acquire minerals, gas, oil, etc. within the land; right to use; right to possess; right to develop; etc. These multiple rights are important because owners of the real property can generally do what they choose with each right. For example, the owner could choose to keep all the rights but lease the right to drill for oil to an oil company, or the owner could choose to keep all the rights but lease the property to a tenant. In other words, the owner can elect to keep, lease or sell the rights to the land.

Other Ownership types

Jurisdictional peculiarities

In the law of almost every country, the state is the ultimate owner of all land under its jurisdiction, because it is the sovereign, or supreme lawmaking authority. Physical and corporate persons do not have allodial title; they do not own land but only enjoy estates in the land, also known as "equitable interests".

Australia and New Zealand

In many countries the Torrens title system of real estate ownership is managed and guaranteed by the government and replaces cumbersome tracing of ownership.[ citation needed ] The Torrens title system operates on the principle of "title by registration" (i.e. the indefeasibility of a registered interest) rather than "registration of title". The system does away with the need for a chain of title (i.e. tracing title through a series of documents) and does away with the conveyancing costs of such searches. The State guarantees title and is usually supported by a compensation scheme for those who lose their title due to the State's operation. It has been in practice in all Australian states and in New Zealand since between 1858 and 1875, has more recently been extended to strata title, and has been adopted by many states, provinces and countries, and in modified form in 9 states of the USA.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, The Crown is held to be the ultimate owner of all real property in the realm. This fact is material when, for example, property has been disclaimed by its erstwhile owner, in which case the law of escheat applies. In some other jurisdictions (not including the United States), real property is held absolutely.

England and Wales

English law has retained the common law distinction between real property and personal property, whereas the civil law distinguishes between "movable" and "immovable" property. In English law, real property is not confined to the ownership of property and the buildings sited thereon often referred to as "land". Real property also includes many legal relationships between individuals or owners of land that are purely conceptual. One such relationship is the easement, where the owner of one property has the right to pass over a neighbouring property. Another is the various "incorporeal hereditaments", such as profits-à-prendre, where an individual may have the right to take crops from land that is part of another's estate.

English law retains a number of forms of property which are largely unknown in other common law jurisdictions such as the advowson, chancel repair liability and lordships of the manor. These are all classified as real property, as they would have been protected by real actions in the early common law.

United States

Each U.S. State except Louisiana has its own laws governing real property and the estates therein, grounded in the common law. In Arizona,[ citation needed ] real property is generally defined as land and the things permanently attached to the land. Things that are permanently attached to the land, which also can be referred to as improvements, include homes, garages, and buildings. Manufactured homes can obtain an affidavit of affixture.

Economic aspects of real property

Land use, land valuation, and the determination of the incomes of landowners, are among the oldest questions in economic theory. Land is an essential input (factor of production) for agriculture, and agriculture is by far the most important economic activity in pre-industrial societies. With the advent of industrialization, important new uses for land emerge, as sites for factories, warehouses, offices, and urban agglomerations. Also, the value of real property taking the form of man-made structures and machinery increases relative to the value of land alone. The concept of real property eventually comes to encompass effectively all forms of tangible fixed capital. with the rise of extractive industries, real property comes to encompass natural capital. With the rise of tourism and leisure, real property comes to include scenic and other amenity values.

Starting in the 1960s, as part of the emerging field of law and economics, economists and legal scholars began to study the property rights enjoyed by tenants under the various estates, and the economic benefits and costs of the various estates. This resulted in a much improved understanding of the:

For an introduction to the economic analysis of property law, see Shavell (2004), and Cooter and Ulen (2003). For a collection of related scholarly articles, see Epstein (2007). Ellickson (1993) broadens the economic analysis of real property with a variety of facts drawn from history and ethnography.

See also

Related Research Articles

Property law is the area of law that governs the various forms of ownership in real property (land) and personal property. Property refers to legally protected claims to resources, such as land and personal property, including intellectual property. Property can be exchanged through contract law, and if property is violated, one could sue under tort law to protect it.

Escheat is a common law doctrine that transfers the real property of a person who has died without heirs to the Crown or state. It serves to ensure that property is not left in "limbo" without recognized ownership. It originally applied to a number of situations where a legal interest in land was destroyed by operation of law, so that the ownership of the land reverted to the immediately superior feudal lord.

In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. It is a way that real estate and land may be owned in common-law countries, and is the highest possible ownership interest that can be held in real property. Allodial title is reserved to governments under a civil law structure. The rights of the fee-simple owner are limited by government powers of taxation, compulsory purchase, police power, and escheat, and may also be limited further by certain encumbrances or conditions in the deed, such as, for example, a condition that required the land to be used as a public park, with a reversion interest in the grantor if the condition fails; this is a fee simple conditional.

In common law and statutory law, a life estate is the ownership of land for the duration of a person's life. In legal terms, it is an estate in real property that ends at death when ownership of the property may revert to the original owner, or it may pass to another person. The owner of a life estate is called a "life tenant".

This aims to be a complete list of the articles on real estate.

In common law, a deed is any legal instrument in writing which passes, affirms or confirms an interest, right, or property and that is signed, attested, delivered, and in some jurisdictions, sealed. It is commonly associated with transferring (conveyancing) title to property. The deed has a greater presumption of validity and is less rebuttable than an instrument signed by the party to the deed. A deed can be unilateral or bilateral. Deeds include conveyances, commissions, licenses, patents, diplomas, and conditionally powers of attorney if executed as deeds. The deed is the modern descendant of the medieval charter, and delivery is thought to symbolically replace the ancient ceremony of livery of seisin.

A condominium, often shortened to condo in the United States and in most Canadian provinces, is a type of living space similar to an apartment but independently sellable and therefore regarded as real estate. The condominium building structure is divided into several units that are each separately owned, surrounded by common areas that are jointly owned. Condominiums are a type of common-interest development (CID). Similar concepts in other English-speaking countries include strata title in Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand, and the Canadian province of British Columbia; commonhold in the United Kingdom; and sectional title in South Africa.

An estate in land is an interest in real property that is or may become possessory. It is a type of personal property and encompasses land ownership, rental, and other arrangements that give people the right to use land. This is distinct from sovereignty over the land, which includes the right to government and taxation.

Lease business contract between two parties, the lessor (owner) and lessee (user), for use of property

A lease is a contractual arrangement calling for the lessee (user) to pay the lessor (owner) for use of an asset. Property, buildings and vehicles are common assets that are leased. Industrial or business equipment is also leased.

A leasehold estate is an ownership of a temporary right to hold land or property in which a lessee or a tenant holds rights of real property by some form of title from a lessor or landlord. Although a tenant does hold rights to real property, a leasehold estate is typically considered personal property.

Usufruct is a limited real right found in civil-law and mixed jurisdictions that unites the two property interests of usus and fructus:

Torrens title is a land registration and land transfer system, in which a state creates and maintains a register of land holdings, which serves as the conclusive evidence of title of the person recorded on the register as the proprietor (owner), and of all other interests recorded on the register.

A real estate contract is a contract between parties for the purchase and sale, exchange, or other conveyance of real estate. The sale of land is governed by the laws and practices of the jurisdiction in which the land is located. Real estate called leasehold estate is actually a rental of real property such as an apartment, and leases cover such rentals since they typically do not result in recordable deeds. Freehold conveyances of real estate are covered by real estate contracts, including conveying fee simple title, life estates, remainder estates, and freehold easements. Real estate contracts are typically bilateral contracts and should have the legal requirements specified by contract law in general and should also be in writing to be enforceable.

In property law, a concurrent estate or co-tenancy is any of various ways in which property is owned by more than one person at a time. If more than one person owns the same property, they are commonly referred to as co-owners. Legal terminology for co-owners of real estate is either co-tenants or joint tenants, with the latter phrase signifying a right of survivorship. Most common law jurisdictions recognize tenancies in common and joint tenancies.

The four unities is a concept in the common law of real property describing conditions that must exist in order for certain kinds of property interests to be created. Specifically, these four unities must be met in order for two or more people to own property as joint tenants with right of survivorship, or for a married couple to own property as tenants by the entirety. Some jurisdictions may require additional unities.

A partition is a term used in the law of real property to describe an act, by a court order or otherwise, to divide up a concurrent estate into separate portions representing the proportionate interests of the owners of property. It is sometimes described as a forced sale. Under the common law, any owner of property who owns an undivided concurrent interest in land can seek such a division. In some cases, the parties agree to a specific division of the land; if they are unable to do so, the court will determine an appropriate division. A sole owner, or several owners, of a piece of land may partition their land by entering a deed poll.

A servitude is a qualified beneficial interest severed or fragmented from the ownership of an inferior property and attached to a superior property or to some person other than the owner. At civil law, ownership (dominium) is the only full real right whereas a servitude is a subordinate real right on par with wayleaves, real burdens, security interests, and reservations. There are two types: predial, attaching to property, and personal, attaching to a person.

In common law jurisdictions like England and Wales, Australia, Canada, and Ireland, a freehold is the common ownership of real property, or land, and all immovable structures attached to such land. It is in contrast to a leasehold: in which the property reverts to the owner of the land after the lease period has expired. For an estate to be a freehold, it must possess two qualities: immobility and ownership of it must be of an indeterminate duration. If the time of ownership can be fixed and determined, it cannot be a freehold. It is "An estate in land held in fee simple, fee tail or for term of life."

A reversion in property law is a future interest that is retained by the grantor after the conveyance of an estate of a lesser quantum that he has. Once the lesser estate comes to an end, the property automatically reverts back to the grantor.

South African property law

South African property law regulates the "rights of people in or over certain objects or things." It is concerned, in other words, with a person's ability to undertake certain actions with certain kinds of objects in accordance with South African law. Among the formal functions of South African property law is the harmonisation of individual interests in property,the guarantee and protection of individual rights with respect to property, and the control of proprietary relationships between persons, as well as their rights and obligations. The protective clause for property rights in the Constitution of South Africa stipulates those proprietary relationships which qualify for constitutional protection. The most important social function of property law in South Africa is to manage the competing interests of those who acquire property rights and interests. In recent times, restrictions on the use of and trade in private property have been on the rise.

References

  1. Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Tenth Edition,1999,p 1192.
  2. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/real%20action.
  3. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/personal%20action.
  4. "BLM Manual of Surveying Instructions For the Survey of the Public Lands of the United States". www.blmsurveymanual.org. Retrieved 2020-05-03.
  5. Black's Law Dictionary – 2nd Edition.

Further reading

Overview of real property

  • Schram, Joseph F., 2006. Real Estate Appraisal, Rockwell Publishing.
  • Moore, Geoff., 2005. Essential Real Property, Psychology Press.

The law of real property

  • Stoebuck, W. B., and Dale A. Whitman, 2000. The Law of Property, 3rd. ed. St. Paul MN: West Group Publishing.
  • Thomas, David A., ed., 1996. Thompson on Real Property. Charlottesville VA: Michie Co.

Analysis of the law of real property

  • Ackerman, B., R. Ellickson, and C.M. Rose, 2002. Perspectives on Property Law, 3rd ed. Aspen Law and Business.
  • Tom Bethell, 1998. Noblest Triumph: Property and Prosperity through the Ages. St Martin's Press. For lay people.
  • Robert Cooter, and Thomas Ulen, 2003. Law and Economics, 4th. ed. Addison-Wesley. Chpts. 4,5. Easier text.
  • Ellickson, Robert, 1993, "Property in Land," Yale Law Journal 102: 1315–1400.
  • Richard Epstein, ed., 2007, Economics of Property Law. Edward Elgar. An anthology of articles, mostly from the law literature.
  • Shavell, Steven, 2004. Foundations of Economic Analysis of Law. Harvard Univ. Press. Chpts. 2–5. Harder text; extensive references.
  • Jeremy Waldron, 1988. The Right to Private Property. Oxford Univ. Press.
  • Oswaldo D. Agcaoili, ISBN   971-23-4501-7, ed. 2006, Property Registration Code. Agcaoili. Land Titles and Deeds: Property Law and Cases in the Philippines.