Guide Land Law

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The course commences with an examination of the nature of real property rights and interests in land, including the historical development of land law and the concept of estates and interests in land. We will cover in some detail the Torrens system of registration of title to land. A principal focus of our discussions will be how the law deals with competition between interests in land. Concurrent ownership is considered in the context of acquisition, exercise and disposition of estates and interests in land.

An examination of leasehold estates and an examination of methods of flat and office ownership explores further the concepts of estates in land and equitable interests.

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Rights or interests in the land of another will also be considered, including easements, covenants and mortgages. Both the test and the final exam are open book. This means that you may, if you wish, bring into the test and exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes. There could be a single freeholder, or people can own land jointly. The law closely regulates the circumstances under which each may sever or sell their share.

Leases, and to some degree licenses, allocate the use of land to new owners for a period of time. Mortgages and other forms of security interest are usually used to give moneylenders the right to seize property in the event that the debtor does not repay a loan. Easements and covenants involve rights and duties between neighbours, for instance with an agreement that a neighbour will not build on a piece of land, or to grant a right of way. The history of English land law can be traced into Roman times, and through the Dark Ages under Saxon monarchs where, as for most of human history, land was the dominant source of social wealth.

The start of an English law of real property , however, came after the Norman Invasion of , when a common law was built throughout England. The new King, William the Conqueror , started standardising England's feudal rules, and compiled a reference for all land and its value in the Domesday Book of This was used to determine taxes, and the feudal dues that were to be paid. Feudalism meant that all land was held by the Monarch. Estates in land were granted to lords, who in turn parcelled out property to tenants.

Tenants and lords had obligations of work, military service, and payment of taxation to those up the chain, and ultimately to the Crown. Most of the peasantry were bonded to their masters. Serfs , cottars or slaves , who may have composed as much as 88 per cent of the population in , [6] were bound by law to work on the land. They could not leave without permission of their Lords. But also, even those who were classed as free men were factually limited in their freedom, by the limited chances to acquire property.

Around Ranulf de Glanvill , King Henry II 's Chief Justiciar composed the first major treatise of the common law, the Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Angliae , [7] setting out the system of writs that people used to claim rights of property, and rights against one another. Glanvill himself died in the Third Crusade , and as discontent resulting from the crusades' cost grew, English barons forced King John to sign the Magna Carta This guaranteed rights of representation to the barons, but contained very little for "commoners".

However, a number of clauses were extracted and expanded into the Charter of the Forest , which did allow people access to common land , where people could hunt and fish for food. Over the centuries, the law expanded on the extent of common ownership , but generally the trend was toward removing land from people. The Commons Act allowed the Lord of a Manor to enclose any manorial land that had previously been common, and the Statute of Westminster formalised the system of entail so that land would only pass to the heirs of a landlord.

The Statute Quia Emptores Terrarum allowed alienation of land only by substitution of the title holder, halting creation of further sub-tenants. The civil liberties of the Magna Carta of , and its reissue in , were only meant for barons and lords, while the vast majority of people were poor, subjugated and dispossessed. In , the second major treatise, by Henry de Bracton , De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliae set out the laws of property or "things", alongside laws of "persons" and "actions".

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Feudalism had not always been a part of English society, rather than being positively imposed by the monarchs prior to the Norman Invasion. People like the poet Geoffrey Chaucer had seen subservience as part of a natural social order, ordained by God. Ironically, the surviving peasants were in a greater position of economic power, in claims or bargaining for wages.

Feudalism began to break down. This did not mean freedom itself, but abandoning forced labour and payments in kind to landlords meant the open evidence of servility was concealed. In disputes, royal courts were increasingly bias toward declaring a peasant was free.

Second, through an act of manumission lords could voluntarily grant freedom and this was increasingly done, after the plague, if the serf or a relative made a payment of money. Third, the common law stated that if a serf lived on free soil, as in a chartered town or Royal demesne land, for a year and a day, they would become free. In Justice Anthony Fitzherbert wrote that the remainder of bondmen was "the greatest inconvenience that now is suffred by the lawe.

More landlords were enclosing pastures that had been open for commoners to use, and destroying people's houses, especially for sheep farming.

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These required that any houses destroyed be rebuilt, but if not half the additional profits would go to the Crown. The Crown itself claimed an inherent right to any valuable metals found on land in , [20] and people who had less than four acres of land were prohibited from building homes by the Erection of Cottages Act The final, formal end of feudal land tenure in England came only after the English Civil War.

When the monarchy was restored Parliament ensured with the Tenures Abolition Act that landlords' obligations of service and military provision were replaced by monetary payments and an annual payment financed by taxation.


Over the same period, behind the momentous shifts in land's social significance, legal developments in the law of property revolved around the split between the courts of common law and equity. The courts of common law the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of the King's Bench took a strict approach to the rules of title to land, and how many people could have legal interests in land.

However, the King had the power to hear petitions and overturn cases of common law.

Land Law - Freehold Covenants

He delegated the hearing of petitions to his Lord Chancellor , whose office grew into a court. During the crusades , landowners who went to fight would transfer title to a person they trusted so that feudal services could be performed and received. But some who survived had returned only to find that the people they entrusted were refusing to transfer title back.

land law (noun) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary

They sought justice with the Lord Chancellor , and his Court of Chancery determined that the true "use" or "benefit" of the land did not belong to the person on the title or the feoffee who held seisin. Unlike the common law judges, the Chancellor held the cestui que use , the owner in equity , could be a different person, if this is what good conscience dictated.

It was similarly useful among Franciscan friars, who would transfer title of land to others as they were precluded from holding property by their vows of poverty. If a person died, the law stated a landlord was entitled to money before the land passed to heir, and the whole property under the doctrine of escheat if there were no heirs. Transferring title to a group of people for common use could ensure this never happened, because if one person died he could be replaced, and it was unlikely for all to die at the same time. King Henry VIII saw that this deprived the Crown of revenue, and so in the Statute of Uses he attempted to prohibit them, stipulating all land belonged in fact to the cestui que use.

Moreover, the primacy of equity over the common law was reasserted, supported by King James I in , in the Earl of Oxford's case. By the early 18th century, the use had formalised into a trust: [24] where land was settled to be held by a trustee, for the benefit of another, the Courts of Chancery recognised the beneficiary as the true owner in equity.

Over the 18th century, the law of real property mostly came to a standstill in legislation, but principles continued to develop in the courts of equity, notably under Lord Nottingham from — , Lord King — , Lord Hardwicke — , Lord Henley — , and Lord Eldon — The moral philosopher and father of economics, Adam Smith , reflected these changes as he argued in The Wealth of Nations that landowners position allowed them to extract rents from others in return for very little. First, there was increasing pressure to dismantle the privileges of the landed aristocracy. The most direct reform was to gradually abolition the " strict settlement ", through the Settled Land Acts of — An owner of land could direct that property on his death would only pass down the line of his relations, thus preventing it being sold to anyone on the market.

The Land Transfer Act introduced a voluntary system, but it was not taken up. After the general election the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George , in his People's Budget of introduced a tax on land to force it onto the market.

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But the Liberal government was returned and it abolished the Lords right of veto in the Parliament Act By then, land registration reforms were a minor political issue and only really opposed by solicitors who earned sizeable conveyancing fees. It was subjected to ridicule in books like Charles Dickens ' Bleak House and his fictional case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce , a Chancery matter that nobody understood and dragged on for years and years. Under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act , equitable principles would prevail in case of conflict. From the Great Reform Act , to the Reform Act , and the Representation of the People Act , the connection between property and the vote was gradually reduced and then abolished.

Together with the Parliament Act , a more democratic constitution had emerged, though it was only in that the voting age for men and women became equal and only in that the double votes and extra constituencies for students of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London were removed. Over the twentieth century, land law became increasingly social in character. First, from the Housing Act and the post war government's policy of building " homes fit for heroes " more and more houses were built, and maintained, by local governments.

In private accommodation, new rights were enacted for tenants against their landlords, with some security of tenure and rent regulation , a break on unfettered " freedom of contract ". The policy was halted by the Housing Act , which sought to privatise properties by introducing a " right to buy " one's council home. At the same time, rights for tenants, and constraints on rental increases were reduced, albeit that tenants did retain some minima of rights, for example under the Landlord and Tenant Act and the Protection from Eviction Act Second, property was increasingly used as a source of finance for business, and similarly became source of profit for banks, mortgage lenders and real estate investment trusts.

This fact drove changes in the market for mortgage regulation, while the growing financial interest in land tended to conflict with family life. As the UK came closer to gender equality , women as much as men contributed to the purchase of homes, as well as contributing to raising families and children. In , in Pettitt v Pettitt , Lord Diplock remarked that "the wider employment of married women in industry, commerce and the professions and the emergence of a property-owning, particularly a real-property-mortgaged-to-a-building-society-owning, democracy" had compelled courts to acknowledge contributions to the home and family life as potentially generating proprietary interests.

The membership of the United Kingdom in the European Convention on Human Rights meant that article 8, on the right to a private and family life, could change the freedom of banks or landlords to evict people, particularly where children's stability and upbringing were at stake, though by the early twenty-first century the case law had remained cautious.

The old common laws between neighbours, of easements, covenants, nuisance and trespass were largely eclipsed by locally and democratically determined planning laws, [36] environmental regulation, and a framework for use of agricultural resources. English land law draws on four main sources to determine property rights: the common law and equitable principles developed by the courts, a system of land registration, a continuing system for unregistered land, and the European Convention on Human Rights. First of all, the courts of common law and equity gave people with "property" rights various privileges over people who acquired mere "personal" rights.

To acquire property over land as with any other object of value , as opposed to a contract, for example, to use it, a buyer and seller simply needed to agree that property would be passed. The law then recognised a "property" right with various privileges over people with purely "personal" claims. The best form of property would involve exclusive possession, and it usually bound anyone who attempted to interfere with an owner's use, particularly in cases of insolvency , if other people with interests in the land sold their stake to a third party, or in getting remedies to enforce one's right.

Before , property rights in land unlike, for example, a company's shares only had to be evidenced in paper title deeds.