This article's lead section may be too long.(August 2023)
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Higher category: Law and Common law
In property law, title is an intangible construct representing a bundle of rights in (to) a piece of property in which a party may own either a legal interest or equitable interest. The rights in the bundle may be separated and held by different parties. It may also refer to a formal document, such as a deed, that serves as evidence of ownership. Conveyance of the document (transfer of title to the property) may be required in order to transfer ownership in the property to another person. Title is distinct from possession, a right that often accompanies ownership but is not necessarily sufficient to prove it (for example squatting). In many cases, possession and title may each be transferred independently of the other. For real property, land registration and recording provide public notice of ownership information.
In United States law, evidence of title is typically established through title reports written up by title insurance companies, which show the history of title (property abstract and chain of title) as determined by the recorded public record deeds;the title report will also show applicable encumbrances such as easements, liens, or covenants. In exchange for insurance premiums, the title insurance company conducts a title search through public records and provides assurance of good title, reimbursing the insured if a dispute over the title arises. In the case of vehicle ownership, a simple vehicle title document may be issued by a governmental agency.
The main rights in the title bundle are usually:
The rights in real property may be separated further, examples including:
Possession is the actual holding of a thing, whether or not one has any right to do so. The right of possession is the legitimacy of possession (with or without actual possession), evidence for which is such that the law will uphold it unless a better claim is proven. The right of property is that right which, if all relevant facts are known (and allowed), defeats all other claims. Each of these may be in a different person.
For example, suppose A steals from B something that B had previously bought in good faith from C and that C had earlier stolen from D and that had been an heirloom of D's family for generations but had originally been stolen centuries earlier (though this fact is now forgotten by all) from E. Here A has the possession, B has an apparent right of possession (as evidenced by the purchase), D has the absolute right of possession (being the best claim that can be proven), and the heirs of E, if they knew it, would have the right of property, which they however could not prove. A good title consists of the combination of these three (possession, right of possession, and right of property) in the same person(s).
The extinguishing of ancient, forgotten, or unasserted claims, such as E's in the example above, was the original purpose of statutes of limitations. Otherwise, title to property would always be uncertain.
At common law equitable title is the right to obtain full ownership of property, where another maintains legal title to the property.
When a contract for the sale of land is executed, equitable [interest/title] passes to the buyer. When the conditions on the sale contract have been met, legal title passes to the buyer in what is known as closing. Properties that are sold on the basis of equitable title have a legal chain of title intact, and a recorded transfer with the local municipality.
Legal title is actual ownership of the property as when the property has been bought, the seller paid in full and a deed or title is properly recorded. Equitable title separates from legal title upon the death of the legal title holder (owner). For example: When a person having legal title to property dies, heirs at law or beneficiaries per the last will, automatically receive an equitable interest in the property. When an executor or administrator qualifies, that person acquires the legal title, subject to divestment when the estate has been administered so as to allow for the lawful passing of the legal title to those having an equitable interest. The resulting merger of the legal and equitable gives rise to the "perfect title", often referred to as marketable title.
Legal and equitable title also arises in trust. In a trust, one person may own the legal title, such as the trustees. Another person may own the equitable title such as the beneficiary.
In countries with a sophisticated private property system, documents of title are commonly used for real estate, motor vehicles, and some types of intangible property. When such documents are used, they are often part of a registration system whereby ownership of such property can be verified. In some cases, a title can also serve as a permanent legal record of condemnation of property, such as in the case of an automobile junk or salvage title. In the case of real estate, the legal instrument used to transfer title from one person or entity to another is via the deed. A famous rule is that a thief cannot convey good title, so title searches are routine (or highly recommended) for purchases of many types of expensive property (especially real estate). In several counties and municipalities in the US a standard title search (generally accompanied by title insurance) is required under the law as a part of ownership transfer.
Paramount title is the best title in Fee simple available for the true owner. The person who is owner of real property with paramount title has the higher (or better, or "superior") right in an action to Quiet title. This concept is inherently a relative one. Paramount title is not always the best (or highest) title, since it is necessarily based on some other person's title.
A quiet title action is a lawsuit to resolve with any cloud on title, such as competing claims or rights to real property, for example, missing heirs, tenants, reverters, remainders and lien holders all competing to get ownership to the house or land.Technical problems with title include misspellings, outstanding debt, unrecorded transactions, and any irregularity that might indicate a break in the chain of ownership. Each of the United States have different procedures for a quiet title action.
However, most personal property items do not have a formal document of title. For such items, possession is the simplest indication of title, unless the circumstances give rise to suspicion about the possessor's ownership of the item. Proof of legal acquisition, such as a bill of sale or purchase receipt, is contributory. The transfer of possession to a good faith purchaser will normally convey title if no document is required.
California prevented aliens (mainly Asians) from holding title to land until the law was declared unconstitutional in 1952.Currently there are no restrictions on foreign ownership of land in the United States, although sales of real estate by non-resident aliens are subject to certain special taxation rules.
Prior to the establishment of the United States, title to Indian lands in lands controlled by Britain in North America was governed by The Royal Proclamation of October 7, 1763. This proclamation by King George III reserved title in land to the Indians, subject to alienation only by the Crown. This continued to be the law of Canada following the American Revolution.
In the United States Indian title is the subservient title held by Native Americans in the United States to the land they customarily claimed and occupied. It was first recognized in Johnson v. McIntosh , 21 U.S. (8 Wheat ) 543 (1823).
It very early became accepted doctrine in this Court that although fee title to lands occupied by Indians when the colonists arrived became vested in the sovereign – first the discovering European nation and later the original states and the United States – a right of occupancy in the Indian tribes was nevertheless recognized. That right, sometimes called Indian Title and good against all but the sovereign, could be terminated only by sovereign act. Once the United States was organized and the Constitution adopted, these tribal rights to Indian lands became the exclusive province of the federal law. Indian title, recognized to be only a right of occupancy, was extinguishable only by the United States. Oneida Indian Nation v. County of Oneida , 414 U.S. 661, 667 (1974).
The usual method of extinguishing Indian title was by treaty.
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.
Personal property is property that is movable. In common law systems, personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In civil law systems, personal property is often called movable property or movables—any property that can be moved from one location to another.
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 law, conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of real property from one person to another, or the granting of an encumbrance such as a mortgage or a lien. A typical conveyancing transaction has two major phases: the exchange of contracts and completion.
In English law, a fee simple or fee simple absolute is an estate in land, a form of freehold ownership. A "fee" is a vested, inheritable, present possessory interest in land. A "fee simple" is real property held without limit of time under common law, whereas the highest possible form of ownership is a "fee simple absolute," which is without limitations on the land's use.
In common law and statutory law, a life estate is the ownership of immovable property for the duration of a person's life. In legal terms, it is an estate in real property that ends at death, when the property rights may revert to the original owner or to another person. The owner of a life estate is called a "life tenant". The person who will take over the rights upon death is said to have a "remainder" interest and is known as a "remainderman".
A mortgage is a legal instrument of the common law which is used to create a security interest in real property held by a lender as a security for a debt, usually a mortgage loan. Hypothec is the corresponding term in civil law jurisdictions, albeit with a wider sense, as it also covers non-possessory lien.
A deed, commonly, is a legal document that is signed and delivered, especially one regarding the ownership of property or legal rights. More specifically, 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.
Adverse possession, sometimes colloquially described as "squatter's rights", is a legal principle in the Anglo-American common law under which a person who does not have legal title to a piece of property—usually land —may acquire legal ownership based on continuous possession or occupation of the property without the permission (licence) of its legal owner.
Seisin denotes the legal possession of a feudal fiefdom or fee, that is to say an estate in land. It was used in the form of "the son and heir of X has obtained seisin of his inheritance", and thus is effectively a term concerned with conveyancing in the feudal era. The person holding such estate is said to be "seized of it", a phrase which commonly appears in inquisitions post mortem. The monarch alone "held" all the land of England by his allodial right and all his subjects were merely his tenants under various contracts of feudal tenure.
A land patent is a form of letters patent assigning official ownership of a particular tract of land that has gone through various legally-prescribed processes like surveying and documentation, followed by the letter's signing, sealing, and publishing in public records, made by a sovereign entity.
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.
Generally, a quitclaim is a formal renunciation of a legal claim against some other person, or of a right to land. A person who quitclaims renounces or relinquishes a claim to some legal right, or transfers a legal interest in land. Originally a common-law concept dating back to Medieval England, the expression is in modern times mostly restricted to North American law, where it often refers specifically to a transfer of ownership or some other interest in real property.
A muniment or muniment of title is a legal term for a document, title deed or other evidence, that indicates ownership of an asset. The word is derived from the Latin noun munimentum, meaning a "fortification, bulwark, defence or protection". Thus "muniments of title" means the written evidence which a land owner can use to defend title to his estate.
In real estate business and law, a title search or property title search is the process of examining public records and retrieving documents on the history of a piece of real property to determine and confirm property's legal ownership, and find out what claims or liens are on the property. A title search is also performed when an owner wishes to sell mortgage property and the bank requires the owner to insure this transaction.
An easement is a nonpossessory right to use and/or enter onto the real property of another without possessing it. It is "best typified in the right of way which one landowner, A, may enjoy over the land of another, B". An easement is a property right and type of incorporeal property in itself at common law in most jurisdictions.
Easements in English law are certain rights in English land law that a person has over another's land. Rights recognised as easements range from very widespread forms of rights of way, most rights to use service conduits such as telecommunications cables, power supply lines, supply pipes and drains, rights to use communal gardens and rights of light to more strained and novel forms. All types are subject to general rules and constraints. As one of the formalities in English law express, express legal easements must be created by deed.
The Marshall Court (1801–1835) issued some of the earliest and most influential opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States on the status of aboriginal title in the United States, several of them written by Chief Justice John Marshall himself. However, without exception, the remarks of the Court on aboriginal title during this period are dicta. Only one indigenous litigant ever appeared before the Marshall Court, and there, Marshall dismissed the case for lack of original jurisdiction.
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 management 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.
In English common law, real property, real estate, immovable property or, solely in the US and Canada, realty, refers to parcels of land and any associated structures which are the property of a person. In order for a structure to be considered part of the real property, it must be integrated with or affixed to the land. Examples include crops, buildings, machinery, wells, dams, ponds, mines, canals, and roads. The term is historic, arising from the now-discontinued form of action, which distinguished between real property disputes and personal property disputes. Personal property, or personalty, was, and continues to be, all property that is not real property.