property law


property law

Introduction

      principles, policies, and rules by which disputes over property are to be resolved and by which property transactions may be structured. What distinguishes property law from other kinds of law is that property law deals with the relationships between and among members of a society with respect to “things.” The things may be tangible, such as land or a factory or a diamond ring, or they may be intangible, such as stocks and bonds or a bank account. Property law, then, deals with the allocation, use, and transfer of wealth and the objects of wealth. As such, it reflects the economy of the society in which it is found. Since it deals with the control and transfer of wealth between spouses and across generations, property law also reflects the family structure of the society in which it is found. Finally, because it deals with such fundamental issues as the economy and the structure of the family, property law also reflects the politics of the society in which it is found.

      This article outlines the major systems of property law that have existed historically and that exist today. The principal focus is on the two major Western systems of law that have become dominant in the industrialized world: the Anglo-American system, derived from the English common law, and the civil law system, which was developed on the European continent on the basis of Roman law. The article will also compare Anglo-American property law with its counterpart in various civil law (i.e., law based on Roman law rather than English common law) countries, including Germany and modern China. Special attention will be given to the rules of property law in countries that, because of their socialist political system, did not recognize private ownership of property. Russia and Romania will be used as the main examples.

Definition and basic themes

The problem of definition
       property is frequently defined as the rights of a person with respect to a thing. The difficulties with this definition have long plagued legal theorists.

      The same problem of definition occurs in non-Western societies as well. In Russia, for example, the word property (sobstvennost) can have various meanings. In some cases it is used as the equivalent of things, belongings, or real estate. It is also used to refer to the right of ownership. In modern-day Russia, the term property is most accurately understood as the economic relations between the owner of a thing and all other persons with respect to that thing.

      Property law is best understood as the complex of jural relationships between and between persons with respect to things. It is the sum of rights and duties, privileges and no-rights, powers and liabilities, disabilities and immunities that exist with respect to things. This holds true for both Western and non-Western legal systems. What distinguishes property law from all other jural relationships, then, is that the jural relationships of property law deal with things.

      For purposes of this article, all tangible things are included within the realm of property law, even if a specific legal system denies the classification “property” to certain kinds of tangible things. Many, but not all, legal systems that recognize a separate category of property law also include within that category some intangible things, such as stocks and bonds, but not other intangible things, such as claims for compensation for wrongs (i.e., a tort or delict). The definition of property law used here includes only those intangible things that the legal system under discussion classifies as property. For a discussion of property law relating to other forms of intangible assets, see intellectual property law (intellectual-property law).

      This descriptive definition of property law makes it possible to say that there is no known legal system that does not have a law of property. A legal system may not have a category that corresponds to property in Western legal systems, but every known legal system has some set of rules that deal with the relations between persons with respect at least to tangible things.

Etymology
      The descriptive definition of property law adopted for this article is far removed from what the word property means in normal English usage: “an object of legal rights,” or “possessions” or “wealth” collectively, frequently with strong connotations of individual ownership. The English word property derives either directly or through French propriété from Latin proprietas, which means “the peculiar nature or quality of a thing” and (in Roman writings after the time of Caesar Augustus (Augustus)) “ownership.” The word proprietas is derived from proprius, an adjective meaning “peculiar” or “own,” as opposed to communis, “common,” or alienus, “another's.” Thus, even before it comes to be a legal term, “property” in the West expresses what distinguishes an individual or a thing from a group or from one another.

The Western tendency to agglomerate
      If property law in the descriptive sense exists in all legal systems, the extraordinary diversity of the property systems of non-Western societies suggests that any concept of property other than the descriptive one is dependent on the culture in which it is found. Even in the West, as the discussion of the English word property shows, the concept has varied considerably over time.

      Nonetheless, one tendency seems to characterize the legal concept of property, in the descriptive sense, in the West: a tendency to agglomerate in a single legal person, preferably the one currently in possession of the thing that is the object of the inquiry, the exclusive right to possess, privilege to use, and power to convey the thing. In the technical language of jural relationships, Western law tends to ascribe the following to the possessor of the thing: (1) the right to possess the thing with a duty in everyone else to stay off, (2) the privilege of using the thing with no right in anyone else to prevent that use (coupled with a right in the possessor to prevent others from using the thing), (3) a power to transfer any or all the possessor's rights, privileges, powers, and immunities to anyone else (who would in the technical language be described as liable to the exercise of the power), and (4) an immunity from change by anyone of those same rights, privileges, and powers (so that everyone else is disabled from changing them).

Property law and the Western concept of private property

The origins of the Western idea of property
      In classical Roman law (c. AD 1–AD 250) the sum of rights, privileges, and powers a legal person could have in a thing was called dominium, ownership, or, less frequently, proprietas (though frequently enough for it to be clear that the two words were synonyms as legal terms). The classical Roman jurists did not say that their system tended to ascribe proprietas to the current possessor of the thing, but that it did is clear enough. A number of Roman legal rules denied the label possession to the person who was in fact, though not legally, in possession in order to keep legal possession in the proprietas. Further, the person legally in possession was presumed to be the proprietas. This is clear enough from the procedural rules that required a person who was not peaceably in possession of a thing to establish affirmatively that his title to the object was better than that of the peaceable possessor.

      Once the Roman system had identified the proprietas, it tended to prevent him from conveying anything less than all the rights, privileges, and powers that he had in the thing. Thus, full use rights divorced from ownership (usufructus) could be given only to a living person, and that person could not convey those rights to another. The ability of an owner to agree to legally binding restrictions on his privilege of use (servitutes) was sharply limited. Moreover, anyone who found himself owning a thing jointly with others could require that the thing be divided into distinct ownership units (nemo invitus ad communionem compellitur; “no one is forced to have common property with another”).

      One might argue that the tendency toward absolute individual property rights in Roman law was more apparent than real. For example, classical Roman law never developed a remedy whereby an individual could, upon proof of ownership, specifically recover a thing. The owner could obtain a judicial declaration of his right to the thing, but the defendant could respond by paying damages. The Roman law of persons (Roman law) put extraordinary power over things in the hands of the head of the household (paterfamilias); indeed, this power was so extraordinary that an elaborate system (peculium) was necessary to allow slaves and sons in the power of their fathers to make binding legal transactions with things that were in fact but not in law their own. Moreover, land outside Italy was owned not by individuals but by the Roman people collectively or by the emperor, yet individuals who had use rights in such land came to have a quality of control over it that was not far different from that of the owners of Italic land, even though the individuals holding usage rights were not called owners. Finally, the sharp cleavage in Roman law between public law and private law prevented the Romans from ever developing a legal notion of protection of property as against the state. This meant not only that property rights were not so absolute in Roman law as it might first seem but also that nothing prevented many of the sorts of conflicts about land use (such as “takings” or condemnations by government entities that in the later Anglo-American legal system were traditionally the subject of private tort suits or private agreements) from being dealt with in Roman law as legislative or administrative matters.

      The agglomerative tendency itself existed to a marked extent in Roman legal thought about property. It is evident not only in the ways outlined above in which Roman legal thought focused on the interests of the owner of a thing to the expense of those of others, but also in the fundamental separation that Roman law made between property law and the law of obligations (contract and delict). This latter separation was to become characteristic of all the Western legal systems, while the specific decisions that the Roman jurists made about what was to be characterized as a necessary part of ownership became characteristic of many Western legal systems, particularly the civil-law systems.

      The existence of the agglomerative tendency in Roman legal thought has no obvious explanation in Roman political or philosophical thought other than the broadest of connections with general ideas of individual worth. That the tendency, coupled with the Roman law of persons, favoured the property-holding classes seems obvious. A number of its manifestations, however, cannot easily be attributed to class interest, notably the law's refusal to allow family settlements of any but the most short-lived variety, the paucity of land-use control devices, and the failure of the law to develop any notion of protection of property against the state.

      In medieval English law, the procedural system prevented any clear distinction between property and obligation. It was not until the abolition of the forms of action in the 19th century that Anglo-American law distinguished between property and obligation in the way the Romans had. It is therefore remarkable that English law prior to the abolition of the forms of action tended at critical junctures to move in directions similar to the Roman—namely, to agglomerate property rights in a single individual.

      In England a notion of property in land emerged at the end of the 12th century from a mass of partly discretionary, partly customary, feudal rights and obligations. The way in which this happened was extraordinarily complex. What began as essentially an appellate jurisdiction, offered by the king in his court to ensure that a feudal lord did not cheat those who were subordinate to him, ended with the free tenant being the owner of the land, in a quite modern sense, with the lord's rights limited to receipt of money payments.

      Legislation at the end of the 13th century (statute De donis conditionalibus, 1285) allowed a conveyor of land to limit its inheritance to the direct descendants of the conveyee and to claim it back if the conveyee's direct line died out (fee tail (entail)). (See also entail.) In one of their few deviations from the principle of consolidating the power to convey in the present possessor of land, the English courts extended the scope of this legislation in the 14th century. In the middle of the 15th century, however, the courts reversed the trend and allowed the present possessor of entailed land to extinguish the interests of his descendants and of the conveyor (docking of entails by a legal proceeding known as “common recovery”).

      In the 16th century the process that had operated at the end of the 12th century to consolidate ownership rights in the free tenant was replicated for the copyholder (copyhold), the descendants of those who held land by unfree tenure. The royal courts opened appellate jurisdiction to copyholders wronged by the unjust behaviour of their lords' courts, and the end result was that the copyholder became the owner of what had heretofore been the lord's land in the eyes of the king's law. Once again, the lord's right in the land was reduced to the receipt of money payments.

      The earliest manifestations of the agglomerative tendency in 12th-century England seem to have announced a fundamental change in the English social system (social status). According to contemporary thought, the man who was seised (i.e., put in possession) of a freehold was effectively considered the owner of the property, and the rights of the lords of freeholders became more like those of taxing authorities. The rights of the nonfreeholders who held land of the free tenant, however, became obscured by the fact that they were not protected in the king's courts.

The European continent
      The collapse of Roman and then of Carolingian power led, in most areas on the Continent, to a situation not unlike that which prevailed in England before the emergence of the central royal courts in the late 12th century. As in England, land was bound up in a mass of partly discretionary, partly customary, feudal rights and obligations. England, however, was precocious in developing central royal courts as early as it did. In most areas of Europe lords' courts remained a significant force for a much longer period, even for free tenants.

      The Roman idea of property was revived on the Continent as an intellectual matter before it came to have much practical force. Beginning in the 12th century, the study of Roman law in the universities led to a renewed awareness of Roman conceptions of property, and in many areas a mixture of Roman law and canon law, known as jus commune (“common law”), came to be authoritative in the absence of local law. Further, Roman ideas were influential both because they were part of the equipment of every university-trained jurist and because they were part of the jus commune. By the end of the Middle Ages the property law of most European countries was still far from that of the Romans, but it was heading in that direction. Civil law was thus displaying the same agglomerative tendency noted in more detail for England.

Explaining the origins
      Both the Roman and the Anglo-American legal systems began as mechanisms for resolving disputes. Both systems began with possession of a thing by an individual. The convenience of assuming that the possessor had all the other rights, privileges, and powers one might have in a thing may go a long way to account for the presence of the agglomerative tendency in both legal systems. The tendency began as an allocation of a burden of producing evidence of ownership. A dispute arose about a thing. Both systems began by determining who is possessed of it. They then assumed that said person had all the rights, privileges, and powers that go along with property until someone else could show that this was not the case.

      Although Western legal systems are not unique in beginning as dispute-resolution mechanisms, the Western concept of property is, if not unique, certainly unusual. One may speculate that what makes this dispute-resolution device operate in favour of the individual property holder in the West is an accident of chronology: systematic legal thinking (associated with professionalization) developed in tandem with a social perspective that valued an individual's connection with a thing above any group's connection with the thing. Thus, the notion of individual property emerges in both Roman and English law at a time when family ties to property were weakening and legal professionalization was occurring.

Property law and theory in the early modern period
      Beginning in the 17th century, developments in property law both in England and on the Continent can be related to developments in speculative jurisprudence. General speculation about the nature of property is at least as old as Plato and Aristotle. Although property is considered, sometimes quite critically, in the writings of the Church Fathers of the Latin West and of medieval theologians, these writings had relatively little direct effect on the secular law.

The classical theories of property
 In the early 17th century the Dutch speculative jurist Hugo Grotius (Grotius, Hugo) announced the theory of eminent domain (condemnation of private property). On the one hand, according to Grotius, the state did have the power to expropriate private property. On the other hand, for such a taking to be lawful, it had to be for a public purpose and had to be accompanied by the payment of just compensation to the individual whose property was taken. The idea was not original, but Grotius stated it in such a way that it became a commonplace of Western political thought.

 In the late 17th century the German jurist Samuel von Pufendorf (Pufendorf, Samuel, Freiherr von) refined a theory of the origins of property rights that had been in existence since ancient times. Property, Pufendorf said, is founded in the physical power manifested in seizing the object of property (occupation). In order, however, to convert the fact of physical power into a right, the sanction of the state is necessary. But the state cannot, Pufendorf seems to suggest, make a property right where physical possession is not present. Thus, both occupation and state sanction are necessary conditions for the legitimacy of property.

 Pufendorf's English contemporary John Locke (Locke, John) had a different theory, again one that had considerable antecedents. What gives someone a right to a thing, according to Locke, is not simply his seizing of the object but rather the fact that he has mixed his labour with the thing in making it his own. This right to a thing arising out of labour is a natural right. It does not require state sanction in order to be valid. It should, however, be protected by the state. Indeed, property is fundamental to the contract that people make in forming the state, and for the state to deny the right to property is a breach of this contract (see social contract).

 Particularly in Great Britain during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Scottish Enlightenment gave rise to a new set of ideas about property that were influenced greatly by the English utilitarian (Utilitarianism) political philosopher Jeremy Bentham (Bentham, Jeremy). Property, according to Bentham, is nothing but an expectation of protection created by the legislator and by settled practice. It is, however, an expectation that should be carefully respected. Since the function of the legislator is to maximize the sum of human felicity, he should know that rarely does any interference with property produce more felicity than it destroys.

      Bentham's follower John Stuart Mill (Mill, John Stuart) associated property with liberty and suggested that security of property is essential for humankind to maximize its potential for liberty. Modern economic theories of property that justify property on the ground that there must be an initial allocation of resources to allow the market to operate and on the ground that individual property rights minimize transaction costs derive from the tradition of Bentham and Mill.

 On the Continent, thought about property took a somewhat different turn. Building on the categorical imperative of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant (Kant, Immanuel)—that persons must always be treated as ends in themselves rather than as means—philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich) suggested that the same imperative applies to a person's property. The reason for this, according to Hegel, is that when someone extends his will to a thing, he makes that thing a part of himself. Protection of property is thus intimately connected with protection of the human will.

  The middle of the 19th century saw the first concerted attacks on the institution of property since the time of the early Christians. The Communist Manifesto (Communist Manifesto, The) (1847) of Karl Marx (Marx, Karl) and Friedrich Engels (Engels, Friedrich) holds that property is nothing but a device in the social warfare between the capitalist and proletarian classes, the means by which the capitalist expropriates the labour of the proletarian and keeps him in slavery. Reform, according to Marx and Engels, would not come until the revolution, when property would be abolished.

      Not surprisingly, relatively little of Marx's theory of property showed itself in property law until a Marxist revolution took place in Russia in the early 20th century. For Utilitarianism and Hegelianism, and their combination in various forms of liberal thought, the evidence of influence is more pronounced as the 19th century progressed.

      The beginning of the 19th century was marked by the promulgation in France of the Napoleonic Civil Code (Napoleonic Code) (1804), a systematic and comprehensive code of private noncommercial law that was to have great influence in the European codification movement that followed. The code is notable for its reluctance to recognize interests in property other than the owner's.

      Liberal conceptions of property seem to have influenced legal thought later in the 19th century. On the Continent the pandectists, a group of systematic jurists prominent in Germany, took the agglomerative tendency inherent in the Roman conception of property and developed it to a point that most modern commentators find goes far beyond what the Roman sources themselves suggest. Their ideas were embodied in the German Civil Code (effective 1900) and had substantial influence on the codes of other countries (see Pandects).

      The tendency toward absolutism in matters of property is also remarkable in Anglo-American law on both sides of the Atlantic. The English Settled Land Acts (1882, 1890, 1925) gave considerably more power to the present holder of settled land than the common law had given him. The Married Women's Property Acts in both countries (originating in the United States in 1839 and in England in 1857) divided property within the marital unit by assigning it to one or the other spouse. The examples could easily be multiplied.

      In the United States the influence of liberal ideas on the development of the law of property can be seen most strongly in the substantial jurisprudence that emerged concerning the protection of property against the state. On the federal level, this development came after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Constitution of the United States of America) in 1868. This amendment prohibits, among other things, any state from depriving a citizen of property without due process of law. Under this rubric, many types of economic and land-use regulations were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court on the ground that they interfered with citizens' property rights.

      As in the case of Roman law, so too in the case of 19th-century Anglo-American law, focusing on what is called property law may obscure the reality of the total law with respect to the possession, use, and conveyance of things. Thus, while the rights, privileges, and powers of the owner seemed to expand, other legal developments undercut them. For example, while the types of permissible easements (easement) (a property interest in land other than the owner's) were restricted in the 19th century, the English equity courts in the same period created a new form of obligation, now called equitable servitudes (servitude), that served the same function as easements and were not subject to the same restrictions (Tulk v. Moxhay [1848]). While the agglomerative tendency affected the law of trusts, the express trust resisted any attempt to defeat its basic division of legal from equitable title. Indeed, trusts were increasingly used as a means of holding newly important aggregations of personal property. Similarly, the increasing complexity of land-use conflicts led to an ever-growing body of local land-use regulations, and the first comprehensive planning act was passed in England at the beginning of the 20th century.

Societal influences
      The social situation within which the law was operating changed markedly over the course of the 17th through the 19th century. In England in the 17th century the abolition of most of the lord's rights to receive money from his freehold tenants relegated the tension between the free landowner and his lord to the background, and a new tension emerged between the established country landowner seeking to perpetuate his family on his land and the newly wealthy man of commerce seeking to buy country land. While lordship remained a force on the Continent throughout the 18th century and in Germany into the 19th century, the same tension between noble and bourgeois was also apparent. The restrictions on the power to tie up land for long periods of time, which the law either invented or extended in this period, favoured commercial interests. That the law stopped short (considerably short in the case of the Anglo-American law) of abolishing all restrictions on the power of the conveyee himself to convey is a product not only of a recognition of the tension in the fundamental tendency to agglomerate but also of the power of the countrymen and their conveyancers to influence the course of legal development.

      By the 19th century the conflict between the established landowner and the merchant had given way to a conflict between industrial (industrialization) and agricultural (agricultural economics) land uses, and the key issue was not the power to alienate land but the privilege to use it. In Anglo-American law the 19th-century courts gave broad scope to industrial development of land at the expense of adjoining residential and agricultural uses. The courts, however, at no time recognized an absolute privilege of land use, and this may be seen as a product both of the inherent tension in the fundamental tendency and of the fact that the agricultural classes retained some social power.

Objects, subjects, and types of possessory interests in property
      The discussion of property hinges on identifying the objects (things) and subjects (persons and groups) of the jural relationships with regard to things in Western legal systems generally. There follows a treatment of possession and ownership, categories that are closely related historically in the West. Then the discussion deals with divisions of ownership and in so doing contrasts the divided ownership system of the Anglo-American law with the devices in the civil-law system that achieve many of the same practical results while employing a quite different set of concepts. The section closes with the procedural protection of property interests.

Objects: What can be the object of property?
Classification of “things”
      Anglo-American law is generally less concerned with matters of definition than is the civil law. Except in the United States, where defining something as property automatically entitles it to constitutional protection, there is less discussion in the Anglo-American legal system of whether a given interest or a given thing should be classified as property. Nonetheless, Anglo-American law shows broadly the same characteristics as the civil law. Almost all tangible things are conceived of as being capable of supporting property interests; some intangibles are treated the same as tangibles, and some are not.

      Water and the land under and bordering on water are everywhere in the West treated differently from other kinds of property. Modern law in the West tends to give substantial power over water and land near water to the state. Beyond that the regimes vary substantially from jurisdiction to jurisdiction (see riparian right; territorial waters).

      The United States has a well-developed law concerning the taking of water from a navigable or nonnavigable stream. In the eastern part of the United States the right to take water from a stream is dependent on ownership of lands adjoining the stream. In the western part of the country the right to take water tends to depend on having first taken it (prior appropriation). In both parts of the country public regulation has increasingly come to the fore.

Other natural resources
      Other natural resources have, in some Western legal systems, been removed from normal private ownership. The tendency on the Continent is to make all minerals subject to state ownership or at least to extensive state control. Historically in England gold, silver, and lead were reserved to the crown. In the United States private ownership of minerals has been the rule, subject to considerable state regulation in the name of conservation. Just as the systems of private ownership with regard to water have tended to divide between those systems that award the water to the person who has it on his land and those that award it to the person who discovered or appropriated it, so too those Western systems that allow private ownership of minerals alternate between giving them to the landowner and giving them to the discoverer.

      Throughout the West the human body, living or dead, is not an object of private property. This fact has raised difficulties in many legal systems. For example, if the human body is not property, the question arises of what is happening when someone makes a gift of or sells blood or bodily organs or makes a testamentary disposition of his body for medical purposes. Many jurisdictions have special legislation on this topic, but the conceptual difficulty is by no means resolved.

possession of tangible things
      Possession of a tangible thing is, at least in the West, a concept that antedates conscious thought about law. Possession is a fact, the Roman jurists said, formed of an intention and a thing (animus et corpus). The thing was basically anything that was capable of being physically possessed; the intention was to hold it as one's own.

      English law also had to deal with a fairly complicated social fact, seisin, the process by which a lord put his man in possession of a tenement. In English law the concept of seisin was also applied to tangible things other than land, things that were not subject to lordship.

      Any legal system that begins its property law with a concept of possession is going to have a property law biased in favour of tangible things. It is easy for Westerners to conceive of possessing almost anything that can be touched. It is far more difficult to conceive of possessing an abstraction like a right, a privilege, or a power. Westerners who are not lawyers will say that they possess their watches or their land; they will rarely say that they possess their bank accounts or the power to convey their land.

Possession of intangible things
       civil law, following Roman, has tended to deny the possibility of legal possession of anything that cannot be touched. English and American law, by contrast, generally are more open to the notion that one may be possessed of a right, a power, or a privilege.

      Because possession is so fundamental to property in both Anglo-American and the civil law, the civil-law systems' greater reluctance to recognize possessory interests in intangibles has important consequences for the way the two systems conceive of property rights. In the case of land, civil law tends to give possession to the owner of the land and to be reluctant to recognize property rights in anyone other than the owner. Anglo-American law, however, recognizes multiple possessory rights in land and hence tends to speak not of ownership of the land but of ownership of an interest in land—i.e., of an intangible legal abstraction in a tangible thing.

Government-granted rights as property
 The types of intangible rights granted by governments expanded greatly in the 19th and 20th centuries. The oldest of these are the exclusive rights given by states and international bodies to encourage and protect authors, inventors, manufacturers, and tradesmen. copyright, the exclusive right to prohibit the copying of a piece of writing or a work of art or music, is almost universally regarded as a property right. In most Western systems copyrights are freely assignable. They are normally protected against state interference in the manner of other forms of property. Patents (patent), the government-granted right to the exclusive use of an invention, and trademarks (trademark), the government-granted exclusive right to market one's product with a given distinctive sign or symbol indicating its source, receive similar treatment in most Western countries.

      In the United States it seems clear that the legislature may make a grant to an individual or group of individuals in such a way as to entitle that individual to property protection in the grant. The grant may then not be taken away without due process of law in a procedural sense. The grant may even be made in such a way that it cannot be taken without the payment of compensation. In other countries in the West the courts have been less involved in these public-law programs. It is perhaps all the more notable, therefore, that throughout the West there has been a tendency in recent years to make at least certain kinds of government grants more secure. As a general matter, government grants can be taken away for fewer reasons, and the process by which they can be taken away has become more elaborate.

      The same tendency toward property-like treatment is also noticeable throughout the West with regard to certain kinds of arrangements between private citizens. Landlord-tenant law, for example, a traditional topic of property law at least in the descriptive sense, has tended to give greater security to the tenant (see below Landlord and tenant (property law)). Western law has also tended to give greater security to employees (who are not the holders of property rights even in the descriptive sense), requiring, for example, that an employer justify discharging a long-term employee.

      If the distinction between tangible and intangible property has become increasingly blurred in Western law and if the category of intangible property seems to be increasingly expanding, the distinction between movable and immovable tangible things has remained relatively fixed. As noted above, Anglo-American property law began as a law concerning land. The actions that protected interests in land were “real” actions, both in the sense that the interest claimed was notionally good against the whole world and in the sense that the remedy afforded was the recovery of the land itself or the interest claimed in it. Movable objects, by contrast, were protected by “personal” actions, both in the sense that one had to allege that the defendant had committed some wrong in order to recover and in the sense that money damages, not specific recovery of the thing, were normally the only available remedy. Reflecting these two types of actions, immovable property (such as a permanent building) came to be called real property (real and personal property), and movable property (such as personal possessions), personal property (see real and personal property).

      Beginning from a law that made a radical distinction between interests in land and all other kinds of property, modern Anglo-American law has gradually come to view both kinds of property as similar. There remain, however, in many jurisdictions distinctions between the two that are more the product of the historical development than they are of any modern functional distinction. In almost all Anglo-American jurisdictions, for example, different forms of conveyance are used depending on whether the property conveyed is real or personal. The types of interests that may be recognized in the two also vary in many Anglo-American jurisdictions.Modern civil law also recognizes the distinction between movables and immovables. In Germany (German Civil Code), for example, the distinction forms the main division of property law, and modern Russian law similarly divides property between movables and immovables. By and large, however, the civil law has followed Roman law in minimizing the distinction. Certain types of privileges of use are recognized only in land, but these tend to be interests that could not be had in a movable good, such as a right-of-way or a privilege to build. Conveyance of land may be somewhat different, but not radically different, from conveyance of movables. Statutes of limitation or periods of prescription may be longer for land than for movables. On the whole, however, the differences are not so great as they are in Anglo-American law.

Subjects: who can be an owner?
      Just as the range of permissible objects of property has been affected by the distinction between property-as-commodity (property as wealth) and property-as-propriety (property as the material foundation of the good—i.e., proper—society), the topic of the subjects of property rights has been greatly affected by the agglomerative tendency. Both Anglo-American and civil law sought a single legal person in whom the vast complex of property rights, privileges, and powers could be said to reside. Historical shifts in the law of persons (the recognition, for example, of more persons as being of equal status before the law) have created more persons to whom the agglomerative tendency could attach but have not defeated the tendency. The fact that modern law freely allows the creation of fictitious legal persons (corporations (corporation)) has, if anything, exaggerated the tendency.

Single individuals
      In both Anglo-American and civil law the paradigmatic holder of property is a single human person. The fact that in the West today far more wealth is held in some form of co-ownership or corporate ownership has not yet affected this paradigm.

      Limitations still exist on property-holding capacity and on the capacity to deal with property. Thus, many jurisdictions still limit, in some way, the property-holding capacity of noncitizens. Many of the Western countries that have indigenous non-Western peoples living among them have separate rules concerning these peoples' property-holding capacity. Such regimes exist, for example, for American Indians who reside on reservations, at least with regard to tribal land. In non-Western countries (e.g., Malaysia) that impose restrictions on the use or development of land by noncitizens, some restrictions apply only to agricultural land, while others are much broader in scope.

      Many citizens who are legally capable of holding property are not legally capable of dealing with it. In Western legal systems generally, children are recognized as capable of owning property, but they cannot deal with it without the consent of their parents or guardians. All Western legal systems have procedures whereby incompetent adults can be deprived of their capacity to deal with property. These procedures generally provide for the appointment of a guardian for the incompetent; the guardian is authorized to deal with the property on the incompetent's behalf.

      Restrictions on both the property-holding capacity and the capacity to deal with property of competent adult women have largely been abolished in the West. Marital property regimes differ substantially, however, and although laws in the late 20th and early 21st centuries tended toward equalizing the powers of husband and wife, full equalization of the power to deal with marital property is not the norm in all Western jurisdictions.

Groups
      Despite the tendency of Western legal systems to regard individual ownership as paradigmatic, all Western legal systems allow a number of different forms of group ownership. The categories offered below are not exhaustive, but they give some notion of the various forms of group ownership that may exist.

Concurrent individual owners
      All Western legal systems recognize that a group of individuals may each have an undivided ownership interest in a thing. This is the norm, for example, when property is inherited by a group of siblings from a parent, but it is also possible for an individual owner to sell or give a piece of property to a group.

      The two most commonly recognized forms of co-ownership in Anglo-American jurisdictions are joint tenancy and tenancy in common. In both forms each tenant has the right to possess and the privilege to use the whole thing. If it is physically impracticable for them all to possess or to use the thing, they must agree among themselves who will have possession in fact, since all have possession in law. If they cannot agree, one or more of them may petition the court to have the thing partitioned among them. If partition in kind cannot be had, the court will order the thing sold and the proceeds divided among the erstwhile cotenants.

      The two forms of cotenancy differ when it comes to succession and to the power to convey. In joint tenancy, if one of the joint tenants dies, the remaining tenants succeed to his share (also known as moiety, or “half”). In tenancy in common, if one of the tenants dies, his heirs or devisees succeed to his moiety. In joint tenancy, if one of the joint tenants conveys his moiety inter vivos (e.g., through a living trust), the conveyance destroys the survivorship interest of his cotenants so far as that moiety is concerned. The conveyee takes not as a joint tenant but as a tenant in common with the other tenants. In tenancy in common, however, conveyance operates like succession. The conveyee takes the same undivided interest that the conveying tenant had.

      Civil-law systems recognize a form of co-ownership similar to the Anglo-American tenancy in common. It is not possible in the civil-law systems to hold property in a form in which one's cotenants automatically succeed to it. French law, like Anglo-American, allows co-owners to demand partition of a cotenancy and is hostile to attempts to restrict this power. German law, however, has a form of cotenancy (Gesamthandeigentum) in which the cotenants cannot partition the tenancy property, although they may alienate their shares. This form of cotenancy is used for many kinds of partnerships, including the partnership of coheirs that exists until the deceased's estate is settled and divided.

      At English common law, partners held partnership property in their individual capacities. They were obliged to account to their partners for profits earned from it, but the ownership interest was in the partner individually, not in the partnership. The common-law rule prevails in England today. In many American jurisdictions, however, legislation allows the partners to hold partnership property in a form of cotenancy, known as tenancy in partnership, which is quite similar to the German Gesamthandeigentum. Roman law treated ownership by partners in a way similar to the English common law, but that rule has, in general, not survived in the modern civil law. Those civil-law countries that do not recognize a form of ownership like the Gesamthandeigentum tend, like the French, to recognize the property-holding capacity of the partnership itself. Thus, partnerships in these countries are treated like corporations for property-holding purposes (see below Corporate owners (property law)).

      English common law adopted a regime of separate marital property in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The wife had her property, the husband his. The only things that they owned together were things that had been conveyed to them together in a form of tenancy known as tenancy by the entirety (which still exists in a number of American jurisdictions). Tenancy by entirety is like joint tenancy in that the surviving spouse takes the whole of the property upon the death of the other spouse. It differs from joint tenancy in that it is not possible for one of the spouses to convey his or her interest so as to defeat the survivorship right of the other.

      In the latter half of the 20th century, movements for the equality of women wrought a major change in this system. Most American jurisdictions now provide for a nonbarrable statutory elective share. A typical statute treatment gives a spouse a right to renounce any provision made in the deceased spouse's will and to take instead a statutorily fixed fraction (typically one-third) of the deceased's estate. In the civil-law jurisdictions and in a small number of U.S. states, a different system of marital property prevails. As in the common-law system, husband and wife each have their separate property, but this is only the property they had prior to the marriage or property they received by gift or inheritance during the marriage. All property that is the result of earnings of either spouse during the marriage is community property, as are, in some of the civil-law jurisdictions, all movables. Separate property descends to the heirs of the spouse who holds the property, but community property is generally divided in half upon the death of the first spouse to die. Half of it goes to the surviving spouse and half of it to the heirs of the first-dying spouse. Other community-property jurisdictions give the first-dying spouse's portion of the community to the surviving spouse, at least in the absence of a testamentary disposition to the contrary.

      Both the common-law and the community-property systems arose at a time when divorce was not as common as it is today. In common-law property jurisdictions the tendency now is to allow the judge wide discretion to divide the property of a divorcing couple without regard to who holds title to what. In community-property jurisdictions the tendency is to divide the community and to leave the separate property with the spouse who has title to it.

      The importance of marital property for the concept of property in the West cannot be overestimated. Although spouses have some power to change their marital property arrangements by private agreement, most married people in the West today live under a regime either of community property or of separate property subject to division upon divorce and to a forced share in the surviving spouse. One might well question to what extent any Westerner who is married can be said to have individual property when his or her spouse has so much of a stake in it.

      Throughout the West the vast bulk of productive assets are owned by fictitious legal persons such as corporations, sociétés, and Gesellschaften, created under general incorporation statutes that allow such fictitious legal persons to engage in a wide variety of profit making and, frequently, eleemosynary (related) endeavours. This development is relatively recent, but it is so common today that it needs hardly to be stated.

      If one asks who has the right to possession, privilege to use, and power to convey property of a corporation, the legal answer is that the corporation does, just as if it were an individual. But a corporation is not an individual; people act collectively through a corporation. The seeming simplicity of corporate ownership masks a variety of interests.

Community or state owners
      In every Western legal system certain tangible things, such as water, air, or wild animals (animal), are withdrawn from private ownership. Modern Western law tends to regard these things as belonging to the state or the community.

      Furthermore, certain things that are not withdrawn from private ownership can at any time happen to belong to the community, to the state, or to some governmental entity. Some of these things, like public highways or public parks, may be open to the public generally, at least under certain conditions; some of them may be owned by the state in a manner quite similar to things that are in private ownership, like government office buildings or government-owned enterprises.

      The community or the state may have interests in things that are owned privately by someone else. Offensive land uses may be abated by a public officer acting on behalf of the community or, in some situations, by any affected member of the community suing as private attorney general on behalf of the community. The number and types of land uses that are deemed offensive have increased notably throughout the West with the increase in concern about the environment (see below Environmental and historical controls (property law)).

      The state may acquire ownership over privately owned assets, or discrete interests in assets, through exercise of its power of eminent domain. Where it exercises this power, the state is required, typically by an express provision in its constitution, to pay compensation to the owner. (See below Eminent domain (property law).)

      Finally, former communist countries continue to permit, as the West does, state ownership. In Russia, for example, two forms of ownership are recognized: private and public. Public ownership refers to ownership by the state, whether at the federal, state, or municipal level.

Unitary and nonunitary concepts of ownership
      In the civil-law tradition the ownership concept is understood in a unitary fashion. Civilians (including those in postcommunist legal systems such as Russia's) commonly refer to the “triad of ownership,” which comprises the owner's rights to possess, use, and dispose of a thing. In this respect the civilian conception of ownership probably is closer to that held by ordinary nonlawyers than is the Anglo-American conception.

      Within the common-law world, ownership is not understood as a unitary concept. Instead, Anglo-American lawyers think of ownership in terms of a “bundle of rights.” This widely used metaphor refers to two features of ownership. The first is the possibility that ownership may be fragmented. The object of ownership—the “thing”—can be owned by more than one person, thereby focusing attention on what specific limited rights each of the various co-owners has with respect to the thing. The second feature is similar to the first, in that it emphasizes the different rights that various individuals may simultaneously have with respect to the thing. Thus, while the person who is colloquially known as “the owner” may simultaneously have the right to possess, use, and dispose of the thing, in fact one or more of these rights may be held by another person. For example, in many U.S. states the person who holds the mortgage to a house is technically considered the legal owner of the house, even though the house's occupant has the exclusive right of occupancy.

      Both legal traditions strongly identify ownership with possession. However, Anglo-American law (common law) allows the right of possession to be divided temporally, so that one person may have the right to possess during that person's life while another person holds the right to possess thereafter (see below Temporal divisions (property law)). In contrast, civil-law systems rarely allow the right of possession to be so divided in terms of time. In the preceding example, civil law is more likely to determine that the person who holds the right to possess during his life has a “usufructuary” (right-to-use) interest only—not ownership.

      Because Western systems connect ownership with the right to possess, it is possible that the ownership of property will shift when the right to possession and possession in fact are separated for a long time. Under a body of law known as “ adverse possession,” if person A vacates a tract of land that he owns, and person B behaves as the real owner would, person B may enter into possession of it. That second possession is wrongful as to person A, but person A must act to recover his possession from person B within the period set down in the statute of limitations (limitations, statute of). In most Anglo-American jurisdictions the statute of limitations on actions to recover land is quite long, 10 or 20 years. But if person A fails to act within the limitations period, his action will be barred.

      One may ask who then owns the land. In most Anglo-American jurisdictions the peaceable possessor of land has the right to possess that land against all except those who can show a better right to possession. But if person A's right to possession is barred by the statute of limitations, then his claim is not better than that of the peaceable possessor. Thus, the person who has actual possession of land for the limitations period acquires a right to possession good as against the whole world, including the true owner whose claim is now time-barred. This adverse possessor, then, becomes the true owner by passage of time.

      In the civil-law countries the vocabulary is different, but the results are similar. With the passage of time (somewhat longer than in the Anglo-American systems), the possessor is said to acquire title by a process known as prescription.

Divisions of ownership
Spatial divisions
      All Western legal systems allow the owner of property to divide it along spatial lines. Such divisions may be unwise, for example, where the resulting piece of land has no access to a public right-of-way (see below Public regulation of land use (property law)). In the case of land, public regulation may prevent the division.

      A somewhat different set of problems arises when the desired division is vertical rather than horizontal. By and large, Anglo-American law allows such vertical divisions, so that one person may own the mineral strata underneath land, another the surface of the land, and the third the air rights. The civil-law systems have had some difficulty with this type of division of ownership, because of the medieval maxim “Cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et usque ad inferos” (“Whoever owns the soil owns all the way to heaven and all the way to hell”). In both systems modern legislation has made possible, for example, ownership of an apartment on the 30th floor of a building. condominium ownership is more complicated, because the condominium owner owns not only the area within the four walls of his apartment or house but also access rights and privileges to use common areas and utilities. cooperative ownership avoids this complexity by having each of the cooperators own a share in a corporation. The corporation, in turn, allows the cooperators to possess their dwelling units, while retaining the title to all the property.

Temporal divisions
      Anglo-American law is notorious for the number and complexity of temporal divisions of ownership it allows. The English law on the topic was considerably simplified in 1925, when it became impossible to have legal ownership divided temporally other than between landlord and tenant. English law, however, continues to allow complicated temporal divisions of beneficial interests in trusts, allowing, therefore, a temporal division in the equitable but not the legal ownership. In many of the remaining Anglo-American jurisdictions, temporal division of the legal ownership of land is still possible, although increasingly undertaken by way of trust.

Life estate and remainder
      One of the possible temporal divisions of ownership in Anglo-American law, the life estate and the remainder in fee, has already been considered. In such an arrangement the life tenant has the right to possess the land for his natural life. He may use the property, but he may not impair its capital value (commit waste). He may convey his interest, but he may convey no more than what he has, an interest limited by his life. Hence, his conveyee receives an estate limited by the life of the conveyor (estate pur autre vie). Common-law dower and curtesy are types of life estates.

      The remainderman has a right to possession that commences upon the death of the life tenant. He may not use the land until the life tenant dies but may sue the life tenant if the life tenant commits waste. Since the remainderman's interest is an interest in fee, his interest will pass to his heirs or devisees if he dies before the life tenant. The remainderman may also convey his interest inter vivos, subject to the life estate. If the original owner in fee conveys a life estate to someone else and retains the rest of the property in himself, the retained interest is called a reversion. For most purposes reversions have the same characteristics as remainders. A number of variations on the basic pattern of life estate and remainder are possible in Anglo-American law. There may, for example, be successive life estates: “to my wife, Edith, for her life, remainder to my son George for his life, remainder after George's death to George's children.”

Contingent interests
      Not only is it possible to create successive interests in land in Anglo-American law, but it is also possible to create interests that are subject to express contingencies. Thus, in the example given above, the donor could make the remainder in George contingent upon George's having attained a specific age, say 21, at the time of the death of the previous life tenant.

      Not only is it possible to make future interests subject to contingencies, but it is also possible in most Anglo-American jurisdictions to make present interests in fee subject to contingencies. Thus, it is possible, for example, to grant a fee interest subject to the contingency that the land be used for school purposes and to provide for a forfeiture of the interest if it is not so used (fee simple determinable, fee simple subject to a condition subsequent).

      Some, although not all, of the arrangements described above are possible in civil law. The major distinction between Anglo-American and civil law in this regard is that civil law normally does not regard such arrangements as involving divisions of ownership. Thus, the usufruct, the device in civil law that most closely corresponds to the life estate of the Anglo-American law, is regarded not as a form of ownership but as a right in the thing of another (jus in re aliena).

      Although the usufructuary normally does not have the right to possession in civil law, he is normally given possessory remedies against third-party wrongdoers. All in all, one may question how different the practical position of the usufructuary is from that of the life tenant in Anglo-American law, despite the substantial conceptual differences between the two systems.

      Even in the area of conditional gifts, the differences between the two systems are not as great as they might seem. True, in civil law the basic principle is that gifts cannot be conditioned. The donor must give outright or not at all. There are, however, exceptions in civil law that derive from the medieval Roman law of fideicommissary substitutions (the Roman fideicommission that permitted testators to avoid certain restrictions on legacies that existed under the formulary system of Roman law). The rules are complicated and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In the French system, for example, it is possible to make a will giving property to one's children and requiring that they turn it over to their children. In German law, it is possible to appoint successive heirs, so long as the succession occurs within 30 years of the death of the testator.

      There is no equivalent in the civil law of the fee simple with a forfeiture clause. Thus, a grant subject to the condition that the land be used for school purposes is not possible in civil law, although there are ways of achieving similar results in civil law, at least for limited periods of time.

      In Anglo-American law present possessory interests less than the fee need not be limited to the life of the holder of the interest; they may also be limited to a specific term of years or to a renewable term (lease). Such a transaction creates the relationship of landlord and tenant. The tenant may have a possessory interest for any specific term, such as 1 month, 1 year, 5 years, or 99 years. The tenant may also have an interest for a specific term that is renewed automatically unless the landlord or the tenant gives notice within a fixed period before the term expires (periodic tenancy). Thus, tenancies can be arranged, for example, from week to week, month to month, or year to year. It is also possible to have a tenancy for no fixed term but subject simply to the will of the landlord and tenant (tenancy at will). Either landlord or tenant may give notice to the other at any time to terminate the tenancy. (In many jurisdictions tenancies at will are subject to statutory regulation concerning the time of the notice to terminate, thus making them more like periodic tenancies.)

      Similarly, civil law allows the creation of landlord-tenant relations. Although the categories of tenancies recognized in Anglo-American law do not exist in civil law, it is possible to create by private agreement most of the landlord-tenant arrangements that Anglo-American law recognizes. What is different in civil law is the conception of the relationship between landlord and tenant. In modern civil law, as in Roman law, the tenant does not have the right to possession; the landlord does. Since the landlord has a contractual obligation to allow the tenant to possess, the practical consequences of this conceptual distinction are not great. The most important area where the two systems differ is in the situation where the landlord sells his interest in the land to someone else. In Anglo-American law, the tenant has an enforceable possessory interest against his new landlord. In civil law, the tenant's remedy is against his old landlord. Even this difference has been narrowed by recent legislation in civil-law jurisdictions that allows tenants to sue third parties who interfere with their possession in fact.

      Throughout the West in the second half of the 20th century, there were substantial changes in the law governing landlord-tenant relationships. These changes most notably affected the law concerning residential tenancies, particularly tenancies in urban apartments. Some jurisdictions also made extensive changes in the law governing agricultural tenancies. By and large, the law of commercial tenancies was left to private agreement. Commercial leases, therefore, continue to use traditional forms, with the terms being negotiated between the parties.

      In the United States the changes in residential landlord-tenant law were initiated by the courts. Legislation has followed, confirming and frequently going beyond what the courts have done. In the rest of the West, the initiative has been taken by the legislatures, although the end results have been quite similar.

      In the United States changes in the law of landlord and tenant came in the 1960s and early '70s, when the country came to focus on the deteriorated conditions of housing that existed for the urban poor, those who had been left behind as the middle class moved to newly constructed housing in the suburbs. Urban housing for the poor was frequently maintained at levels far below what was required by local regulation, but enforcement of these codes was sporadic. Faced with this situation and with considerable legislative inertia, American courts came to read the provisions of the housing code into the lease. Javins v. First Nat'l Realty Co. (1970), for example, requires that every residential lease have within it an unwaivable warranty of habitability, requiring the landlord to maintain the premises up to the standard of the local housing code. If the landlord does not maintain the premises up to this standard, the tenant may withhold rent, and the landlord cannot evict him for nonpayment of rent.

      Legislation in the 1970s tended to confirm the results of Javins v. . Other legislation and decisions gave residential tenants more security of tenure. A number of urban jurisdictions that had abandoned rent control reinstated it. While there are still considerable differences between the American and European patterns of regulation of the residential landlord-tenant relationship, the trend is toward convergence. Everywhere the essential terms of the relationship are increasingly fixed by law; the tenant's interest in his dwelling has become more secure, while the landlord is regarded less as an owner than as the provider of a public utility. Public sentiment has swung for and against rent control over the years.

Other forms of divided ownership: trusts, mortgages, and security interests
Trusts (trust)
      Anglo-American law recognizes another possible division of ownership, that between the power to manage property and the privilege of receiving the benefits from it. This division, known as the trust, is of great practical importance in Anglo-American law. The trust device is used in a wide variety of contexts, most notably in family settlements and in charitable gifts. In the area of family settlements it has largely replaced the legal life estate and remainder.

      Fundamental to the notion of the trust is the division of ownership between legal and equitable. This division had its origins in separate English courts. The courts of common law recognized and enforced the legal ownership; the courts of equity recognized and enforced the equitable ownership. The conceptual division of the two types of ownership, however, survived the merger of the law and equity courts. Thus, today legal and equitable interests are usually enforced by the same courts, but they remain conceptually distinct.

      The basic distinction between legal and equitable ownership is quite simple. The legal owner of the property (trustee) has the right to possession, the privilege of use, and the power to convey those rights and privileges. The trustee thus appears by all counts to be the owner of the property—or so it appears to all but one person, the beneficial owner ( beneficiary, cestui que trust). As between the trustee and the beneficiary, the beneficiary gets all the benefits of the property. The trustee has a fiduciary duty to the beneficial owner to exercise his legal rights, privileges, and powers in such a way as to benefit not himself but the beneficiary. If the trustee fails to do this, the courts will require him to pay over what he has earned for himself to the beneficiary and may, in extreme cases, remove him as legal owner and substitute another in his stead.

      Divisions between legal and beneficial ownership are normally created by an express instrument of trust. The maker (settlor) of the trust will convey property to the trustee (who may be an individual or a corporation, such as a bank or trust company) and instruct the trustee to hold and manage the property for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries of the trust.

      Trust instruments can be quite complicated. They may provide for succession among the trustees and for succession among the beneficiaries. They may give the trustee considerable discretion in managing the property and in paying out the benefits to the beneficiaries. In nearly all jurisdictions the beneficiary's interest may be insulated from the claims of his creditors, as in a spendthrift, or protective, trust. Some U.S. states have enacted statutes permitting individuals to create spendthrift trusts for themselves. These so-called “asset protection trusts” allow an owner to continue to receive all of the benefits of ownership while also immunizing the owner's beneficial ownership interests (e.g., the right to receive all income from the trust assets for life) from his creditors.

      The use of a trust (rather than the legal life-estate-remainder arrangement) effectively separates the management of assets from the enjoyment of them. By transferring assets into the hands of professional or semiprofessional managers, the trust arrangement frequently allows assets to be managed more competently than they would be by some or all of the beneficiaries. Further, the assets themselves are not locked into the arrangement. If it makes sense to sell a piece of land or to shift an investment portfolio from bonds to stocks, the trustee does this, and he can give good title to the assets. Further still, use of the trust allows the beneficial interest in property to pass from generation to generation without causing the property to pass through probate (inheritance), an awkward and time-consuming process in many Anglo-American jurisdictions. Finally, use of the trust sometimes allows for a savings in taxes.

      There is no precise equivalent of the trust in civil law. In Islamic law there is an institution, the waqf, that is somewhat like the Anglo-American trust. Some modern civil-law systems have created an institution like the trust, but this has normally been by adapting trust ideas from the Anglo-American system rather than by developing native ideas.

      Most of the uses to which the Anglo-American trust is put are achieved in civil law in other ways. For example, the charitable trust of Anglo-American law has a quite close analogy in the civil-law foundation. Of the purposes for private express trusts mentioned above, lawyers on the Continent get professional management for assets by turning them over to managers who are paid a fee for their services. Since the number of possible outstanding interests in a given piece of property is more limited in the civil law than it is in Anglo-American, it is less necessary to have a trustee who can give good title to the whole of the property. Probate avoidance is rarely an issue on the Continent, because civil-law systems of probate are normally far less cumbersome than the Anglo-American systems. Thus, as in so many other areas in comparative Western law, it turns out that some of the needs that the Anglo-American trust serves are not needs in the civil-law systems because of structural differences between the systems; the remaining needs are served by other devices.

Security interests in property
      Another division of the rights, privileges, and powers of ownership exists in all Western legal systems—the division that occurs when an owner makes use of his property as security for a loan or other obligation. In this area there is little practical difference between the Anglo-American and civil-law systems, despite great differences in vocabulary and conceptualization about property used in a secured transaction. Both systems recognize arrangements between debtor and creditor in which the ownership of the thing is nominally transferred to the creditor, but the creditor's ability to deal with the thing is limited in such a way that the ownership will revert to the debtor so long as the debtor discharges his obligation. Both systems also recognize arrangements in which the creditor does not receive an ownership interest in the property but receives sufficient rights against the debtor so that he is secure if the debtor does not discharge his obligation.

      In both systems the most complicated, and historically the most important, security devices have to do with land—the mortgage of the common law and the hypothec (pledge) of the civil law. In the mortgage of the common law, the debtor (mortgagor) conveyed his land to the creditor (mortgagee) subject to the condition that the land would automatically revert back to the debtor if the debtor discharged his obligation by a certain date. The debtor, however, remained in possession of the land, and the practice of allowing the debtor to remain in possession became an obligation of the creditor to allow the debtor to possess the land and finally a right in the debtor to possess the land so long as the debtor was not in default on the debt. If the debtor defaulted, the creditor's right to possess became perfected, and he could enter and use the land for himself or sell it as he wished. The debtor's interests were extinguished.

      The equity courts intervened on the side of the debtor. equity first gave the debtor a right to redeem the property by paying the amount that was owed, even if he had defaulted on the debt. In order to sell the property, creditors were forced to bring an action in equity to foreclose the debtor's equity of redemption. As a condition of foreclosure, equity gave the debtor a right to the proceeds of the sale to the extent that the sale realized more than the outstanding debt. Legislation in the 19th century extended the debtor's right to redeem even after the creditor had foreclosed. Finally, in some jurisdictions legislation required that the creditor sell the property after he had foreclosed, and in some of these jurisdictions the sale had to be conducted by a public official.

      At common law the debtor could not transfer legal title to his property to third persons because he did not own it. (He could, however, convey his equity of redemption.) This meant that a purchaser in good faith might end up with nothing even though the mortgagor looked to all the world like the owner of the property (he was in possession and could normally produce evidence that the property had been transferred to him by a previous owner). In order to protect third-party purchasers, most Anglo-American jurisdictions have public offices in which mortgage transactions can be recorded or registered (see below Registration and recordation (property law)). At common law, or between successive grantees, priority in title was determined by the timing of the respective conveyances. If O granted land to A and later granted the same land to B, A prevails over B by virtue of being first in time. Today if A takes from O and fails to record the deed, and B later purchases the land from O without actual notice of the O-A deed, then B is protected against A.

      The mortgagor's interest looks more like that of an owner than do those of the creditor, despite the fact that the mortgage deed says that the creditor is the owner. Other jurisdictions retain the notion that the creditor is the owner subject to all the qualifications offered above. There is little practical difference in result in the two types of jurisdiction.

      Although they originated from very different premises, the civil-law systems have arrived at much the same result. The debtor has the right to possession and privilege of use of the property unless and until he defaults. If he defaults, the creditor may, depending on the jurisdiction, either take possession of the property or force a sale of it. The debtor's interest in the proceeds of the sale over and above the outstanding amount of the debt is everywhere protected. In some jurisdictions the debtor may also be given a grace period within which he can redeem the property after default. Registration of security interests is virtually universal. If the interest is registered, the creditor's interest survives any transfer of the property, even to a good-faith purchaser without actual notice of the security interest.

      Security interests in movables have a somewhat different history. In the Anglo-American system security interests in personal property were developed largely by the equity courts, aided in the 19th and 20th centuries by legislation. The result is a quite complex branch of what is normally called commercial law (see commercial transaction). Suffice it to say that it is possible to have arrangements much like a mortgage whereby the debtor retains possession of the property subject to a security interest in the creditor (chattel (tort) mortgage or conditional sale) or to have the creditor take possession of the property subject to the debtor's right to redeem it by paying the debt (pledge or pawn). In some jurisdictions, notably England, the debtor will lease the property from the creditor (who is also normally the seller), his title becoming absolute when the payments have been made (hire purchase). In the United States the differences between the various types of personal property security agreements have been considerably reduced by uniform legislation that deals with all of them under one heading. (See also installment credit.)

      On the Continent the pledge or pawn (pignus) was historically the chief security device for movables. Under this device the right to possession of the movable was in the creditor, although possession in fact might not be. Financing devices for merchants are handled in separate codes of commercial law, where the devices tend to be similar to those of the Anglo-American chattel mortgage or conditional sale. Modern consumer-credit law has produced a number of devices, some of them representing developments from the civil law of pledge, some more closely resembling the English hire purchase.

Protection of property interests
Public law protections of property

      If person A takes the property of person B without his permission and with the intent to deprive him of it permanently, that is theft, a concept that is virtually universal. Modern Anglo-American criminal codes tend to subdivide theft in ways that reflect their common-law background. larceny is the simple taking of personal property or money from the possession of another with the intent to deprive the possessor of it permanently. burglary is larceny aggravated by the fact that it is achieved by breaking and entering premises in order to accomplish it. robbery is larceny aggravated by the fact that it is achieved by the exercise of force or threats of force against the possessor. embezzlement is a wrongful taking of property by someone (such as a bank clerk) who is already rightfully in possession of it.

      The civil-law criminal codes do not observe the Anglo-American distinction between larceny and embezzlement. Otherwise, the criminal prosecution of theft in civil law is quite similar to that in the Anglo-American systems. An intent to deprive (animus furandi) is required. The penalty will vary depending on the value of the thing stolen and will be aggravated if the theft is accompanied by wrongfully entering premises or by the exercise of force.

      Land cannot be stolen in either Anglo-American or civil law. Wrongful entry onto land may be punished in Anglo-American law by statutes regulating criminal trespass. Deliberate damage to another's land may also be punished criminally, particularly under modern regulatory statutes concerning the environment.

      An extensive body of regulatory law concerning the use of property, particularly of land, was developed in the 20th century. The effect of such regulatory law is to protect the property interests of those members of the community whose property would be adversely affected by the land use proscribed by the regulation. Thus, if an environmental law prohibits the emission of certain pollutants from a smokestack or an automobile, that law protects the interests of those on whose land the pollutants would otherwise descend or those who would otherwise breathe the polluted air.

      In some circumstances some Western jurisdictions allow those adversely affected by the violation of such regulations to sue the violators directly. In other circumstances and in other jurisdictions such standing to sue is not allowed, but the adversely affected individual may bring an administrative proceeding to compel enforcement of these regulations. Even if no private enforcement is allowed, the facts that the regulation exists and that its enforcement by public authorities can normally be expected changes the property interests, in the definitional sense, not only of the property owner whose privilege of use is limited by the regulation but also of those who benefit from the regulation.

Private law protections of property
      The protection of property in civil procedure has a long history in both the Anglo-American and the civil-law systems. Both procedures are strongly affected by the fundamental distinction that Roman law made between actions in personam and those in rem and by the distinction that the medieval civilians (lawyers in the civil law system) made between actions to establish ownership (petitory actions) and those to recover possession (possessory actions).

Anglo-American law
      In the Anglo-American systems the basic action for vindication of an ownership interest in land is usually a modern action derived from the common-law action of ejectment. This action results in the successful plaintiff's being restored to the physical possession of the land. After some controversy, still not completely settled by the end of the 20th century, it was decided that the plaintiff in ejectment need not prove title good as against the whole world but simply a relatively better right to possession than the defendant. The operations of this action thus fit into the Anglo-American concept of ownership as a relatively better right to possession.

      For the owner seeking a judicial declaration of his title to land, most of the Anglo-American systems provide an action derived from the equity action to quiet title (a quiet-title action attempts to secure the plaintiff's title to the land by forcing the opposing claimant either to prove his claim or to drop the claim entirely). This results in a declaratory judgment as to the state of the title. The procedural difficulties of bringing this action make it distinctly less desirable than ejectment, but sometimes it is the only remedy available (where, for example, the plaintiff is already in possession but the defendant claims ownership or some lesser interest and hence is hampering the market value of the plaintiff's land). As a general matter, where the action of ejectment is not available, equity courts, or their modern descendants, will protect the plaintiff who has established that he has a property interest in the land by issuing an injunction against the defendant who is interfering with the interest.

      Because the action of ejectment tries the better right to possession, separate possessory actions for land are no longer a main feature of Anglo-American law. Most jurisdictions do, however, have a statutory possessory action, derived from the English statutes of forcible entry and detainer, in which an owner or prior peaceable possessor can recover possession from one who has taken or who detains possession without pretense of right. These actions are frequently used by landlords to recover possession from tenants who have held over after the terms of their leases have expired and are occasionally used by peaceable possessors who have been ousted from their possession by force.

      Possession of land is also protected in the Anglo-American system by civil actions of trespass. Technically, trespass is a personal action, and the successful plaintiff recovers only money damages. Since such actions frequently rest on the right to possession, however, they were used in the past, and in some jurisdictions are used today, to try title.

      Historically, the Anglo-American system had no real action to vindicate ownership of movables. Although still technically personal actions, actions concerning movable property have been expanded in Anglo-American law, so that today they serve most of the purposes of the old real actions of the land law. In England, conversion, a descendant of the common-law trover action, is used, coupled with the possibility that in some situations (normally in the case of unique movables) the court may specifically decree the restoration of the thing itself. In the United States the common-law action of replevin was changed to allow the same purpose to be achieved.

      Modern civil-law systems retain the distinction that Roman law made between petitory and possessory actions, but the tendency in both cases is toward a procedure of relative rather than absolute rights. Thus, for example, the modern French revendication (a means of recovering property through a formal claim), while still nominally an action that tries absolute ownership, has in practice become an action that tries relatively better title between the plaintiff and the defendant. Similarly, the French possessory actions of réintégrande and complainte are available to almost any peaceable possessor as a means of recovering something of which he was dispossessed by someone whose claim to possession is inferior to his. The results in the German system are similar, although the German scheme of actions is somewhat closer to that of Roman law. German law also knows an action to correct the Grundbuch, which has a somewhat similar function to that of the Anglo-American quiet title action (see below Registration and recordation (property law)).

Use of property interests
      The previous section focused on the right to possession of property. This section focuses on the privilege of use of property—the extent to which the law allows an owner or possessor of property to use the property and how an owner or possessor of property may grant privileges of use to others. The fact that person A's privilege of using his property inevitably conflicts with person B's privilege of using his, if their properties are located near each other, has led throughout the West to extensive limitations on the privilege of use, first in the area of private law and, increasingly, in the area of public law.

nuisance law and continental parallels
      At English common law the basic limitations on the privilege of use of property were incorporated in the law of nuisance, the action that a landowner could bring if his privilege of using his land was being interfered with. Historically, nuisance law seems to have been deeply conservative; existing land uses were protected against more recent ones. A hierarchy of land uses favoured residential uses over agricultural and agricultural over industrial. (Commercial uses were sometimes placed after residential, sometimes after agricultural.) The maxim “Sic utere tuo ut alienum non laedas” (“Use your own thing so as not to harm that of another”) expressed this conservative tendency, though it hardly offered a precise solvent for difficult cases.

      Nuisance law is still used in the contemporary Anglo-American system as a means of resolving land-use disputes. The hierarchy of land uses is still employed, tacitly if not expressly; the maxim is still occasionally quoted, and at least in close cases the land use that is prior in time will prevail over subsequent ones. What has changed about nuisance law is the fact that the element of judicial discretion in resolving the basically unresolvable conflict between two equally privileged land uses is more frankly recognized.

      Nuisance is defined as the substantial interference with the plaintiff's use of his land by the unreasonable conduct of the defendant. Each of the qualifying words in the definition can lead to an exercise of judicial discretion. One may ask, for example, whether the harm caused by the defendant's activity is substantial. A judgment is called for—aided, of course, by precedent, but always unique to the given case. Hazards to health, offenses to the sense of smell or hearing, and demonstrated economic loss are frequently found to be substantial harms. For example, secondhand cigarette smoke may constitute a nuisance. Offenses to the sense of sight and injuries to peculiarly sensitive activities (such as operating a pig farm in a residential area) are much less likely to be found substantial.

      The second stage in determining that a nuisance exists requires a finding that the defendant's activity was unreasonable. Unreasonable conduct is a relative matter. It may be unreasonable to engage in heavy manufacturing in a residential area and perfectly reasonable to do so in an industrial area. The care with which the defendant conducts his activities is of relevance, but it is not decisive.

      Once a nuisance has been found, there still must be, in most jurisdictions, a “balancing of the equities (equity)” to determine whether the defendant will be enjoined from his activities or whether the plaintiff will have to content himself with money damages. In recent cases, economic considerations have come to the fore in making this determination. Thus, in a celebrated New York case, the court refused to enjoin the operations of a cement plant that represented a $45 million investment and a large number of jobs for a small community but instead awarded money damages to the nearby residents calculated on the basis of the reduction in the capital value of their houses that would result from the continued presence of the smoke-emitting plant (Boomer v. Atlantic Cement Co. [1970]).

      The adoption by modern civil law of the Roman conception of ownership and of substantial parts of the Roman scheme of actions has meant that modern civil law also lacks a unified protection of the privilege of use like that of the Anglo-American nuisance law. In France this lack has been addressed by the development of the concept of abus de droit (“abuse of right”). The concept has been extensively used in situations where the defendant has employed his land in a given way in order to interfere with his neighbour's land use. The paradigm case came from Colmar, France, in the middle of the 19th century, when the defendant built a large and totally unnecessary chimney on the roof of his house in order to block the light to his neighbour's windows. From there the concept has developed so that it may be used in situations where the motives of the defendant are not so obviously malicious as they were in the Colmar case, but it has never involved the French judiciary as much in land-use questions as has the Anglo-American. German law, on the other hand, has developed a concept similar to that of Anglo-American nuisance law, based on the general requirement in the code that one act in good faith and on a specific provision dealing with smoke and noise.

Private land-use control: servitudes (servitude)
      Both Roman law and English common law recognized that an owner of land could voluntarily part with a right or privilege with regard to his land so that a neighbour might use the land in a way that would otherwise be actionable. The classic case is the right-of-way, whereby an owner agrees to allow a neighbour to cross his land in order to allow the neighbour to reach his own land. What distinguishes the right-of-way and similar interests from the myriad types of enforceable agreements not to sue is that the right-of-way is a real right; that is, if it is properly created, the right-of-way will remain in effect even when the owner of the burdened land has transferred the land to another.

      Today the category of use rights is broader in Anglo-American systems than it is in the civil law. The developments, however, were not entirely independent of each other. The similarity in the two bodies of law will become even more noticeable if, as has been proposed, American law comes to abandon its traditional distinctions between easements, profits, real covenants, and equitable servitudes and adopts instead, like the civil law, a general category of servitudes.

Easements and profits
      An easement in Anglo-American law is a privilege to do something on the land of another or to do something on one's own land that would otherwise be actionable by one's neighbours (known as an affirmative easement). Exceptionally, it is the right to prevent a landowner from doing something on his land that he would otherwise be privileged to do (known as a negative easement). Examples of affirmative easements include rights-of-way, the privilege of using land for pasture, the privilege of using a wall between two properties as a party (common) wall, the privilege of flooding land, and the privilege of maintaining a nuisance on one's own land (for example, a garbage dump or an airport). Examples of negative easements are more restricted. It is sometimes said that there are only four such easements: two being the right to prevent one's neighbour from obstructing the light and the air that normally come to one's property, the third being the right to prevent him from undermining the support for a building, and the fourth being the right to prevent him from changing the course of an artificial stream.

      Easements may be created by grant, by implication, or by prescription. Normally, the owner of the burdened land will grant the easement expressly. Recordation may be necessary in order to have the grant bind third parties (see below Registration and recordation (property law)). Where the owner has divided land in such a way that the conveyee has no convenient means of access except across the land retained by the conveyor, the conveyor will be presumed to have given the conveyee a right-of-way across the retained land (easement by implication). The same will often be presumed where the conveyor has left himself totally landlocked (requiring an easement by necessity). (In a few jurisdictions statutes compel the same result.) Implication will also be found where there were pipes or paths on the undivided parcel that suggest that the parties to the transaction that divided the parcel intended to subject one parcel to an easement in favour of another. Finally, the continuous and uncontested use of an easement for the period of prescription (normally, the statute of limitations for ejectment actions) can give rise to an easement by prescription.

Real covenants (restrictive covenant)
      The common law recognized that under certain circumstances a promise could be made to “run with the land,” so that the owner of the estate burdened by the promise would have a duty to perform it, potentially in perpetuity. The promise could be either negative (a promise not to do something, such as not using the land for commercial purposes) or affirmative (a promise to do something, such as maintaining a fence or paying an assessment to a homeowners association). The conditions under which such covenants would run with the land were, and perhaps still are, complicated. In many jurisdictions the precise contents of the doctrine are not clearly defined. This is because the enforcement of covenants by means of injunction, the equitable servitude discussed in the next section, has largely taken over, as a practical matter, for covenants that run with the land at law.

Equitable servitudes
      The equitable servitude is an invention of the English equity courts in the 19th century. This device allows the enforcement of restrictions on land use that neither fall within the traditional types of negative easements nor meet the traditional requirements of covenants that run with the land; such promises are enforceable against the successors in title to the land owned by the original promisors. What is required is that the content of the promise “touch and concern the land,” a requirement that allows the court to make a policy determination that a particular class of promises should be permitted to burden the land and that the person against whom enforcement is sought took title to the burdened land with notice of the promise. This notice will typically arise from the fact that the instrument in which the promise was made is on the public record, but it has been held that a uniform scheme of development of parcels of land that were once under common ownership is enough to put the purchaser of one of the parcels on notice to inquire whether a promise to develop in this way was made.

      The equitable servitude has been of great importance in land development in Anglo-American jurisdictions. By use of this device land can be developed according to a uniform scheme (residences only, residences of a certain size, even residences with a required style of architecture). The use of the equitable servitude as a device for private land-use control is one of the reasons why public regulation of land use is a relatively recent phenomenon in the United States.

      A generally restrictive attitude toward servitudes is manifest in the modern civil law. In French law it is not possible to create a servitude that benefits a person rather than a tenement or piece of land—i.e., a servitude must have both a dominant and servient tenement. There can be no servitude requiring the owner of the servient tenement to do something. Within these limits French law allows a servitude to be created for any purpose. The German law is broader. It recognizes the possibility that servitudes may be created to benefit a person rather than a particular piece of land, although the benefit may last no longer than the lifetime of the beneficiary. As in French law there does not seem to be any way in German law to compel the owner of the servient tenement to do something. Thus, there is no category in civil law corresponding to the Anglo-American affirmative real covenant, and the category of equitable servitudes is unnecessary because the general category of servitudes is broader.

      In French law the methods of creating servitudes are remarkably similar to the methods of creating easements in Anglo-American law. German law makes less use of prescription and implication of servitudes than does Anglo-American law, probably because of its reliance on the Grundbuch. Both the French and German systems recognize a right-of-way of necessity. The parcels need not originally have been in common ownership, but the landowner seeking a way of necessity must compensate the owner of the servient tenement.

      Servitude law is not used in civil-law countries as extensively as it is used in Anglo-American. This is probably because civil-law jurisdictions developed public controls on land use earlier than did most Anglo-American jurisdictions.

Public regulation of land use
       urban planning was known in the ancient world, and particular regulations of land use have been designed to ensure the health, safety, or sensibilities of neighbours wherever human beings live in reasonably close proximity. The amount, however, of such regulation increased dramatically in the 20th century. As a result, zoning and planning law has become a topic of general concern to the legal profession.

      Zoning and planning law is also an area in which the basic distinction between Anglo-American and civil law is not particularly useful. Although the concept of public nuisance does not seem to exist in civil law and the constitutional protection given to “property” in the United States has given rise to a somewhat unusual set of limitations on the power of government to regulate land use, the overall picture of public control of land use in the West is more notable for its similarities than for its differences.

Public nuisance
      In Anglo-American law the concept of public nuisance serves as a bridge between the private law of nuisance and the avowedly public law of zoning and eminent domain. The concept of public nuisance is closest to that of private nuisance in situations in which a public officer, acting on behalf of the community, brings suit to abate a nuisance that differs from a private nuisance only in that it affects a large number of people. The concept of public nuisance is farther removed from that of private nuisance when legislative bodies declare that certain kinds of land use are public nuisances as a matter of law. Traditional legislatively declared public nuisances include the maintenance of houses of prostitution or illegal gambling establishments and illegal sales or consumption of alcoholic beverages.

      The direct link between public nuisance and zoning and planning law is provided by the fact that in many Anglo-American jurisdictions, violations of zoning law are automatically deemed public nuisances. Thus, constructing a building without obtaining the requisite public approval is perfunctorily a public nuisance, although it may be abated by the public prosecutor.

      Civil law lacks the concept of public nuisance. Civil law, of course, has a large number of prohibited land uses like those described above, and civil law prohibits the construction of buildings without obtaining the requisite permits.

Direct regulation

zoning and planning
      In the 19th century urban areas expanded rapidly throughout the West. industrialization introduced many new types of land uses, which were frequently annoying, dangerous, or injurious to the health of those engaged in more traditional residential, commercial, and agricultural activities. The invention and rapid spread of the automobile created problems of traffic control far exceeding anything that the horse-and-buggy era had produced. Fire and police protection in urban areas, the provision of such public services as trash collection, and the provision of water, gas, and electricity were rendered difficult, if not impossible, by the chaotic growth of many areas.

      Throughout the West the response to these problems was to regulate development. By and large, existing structures and land uses were allowed to remain, but new structures and new land uses were subjected to increasingly stringent regulation. The fact that only new structures and uses are subject to regulation is characteristic of all modern Western forms of land-use control, whether it is deemed constitutionally impermissible to require landowners to change existing uses or is simply politically inexpedient to do so.

      In virtually all jurisdictions the key regulatory device is the requirement that new construction or substantial rehabilitation of old structures not be undertaken until official permission (such as a building permit) has been obtained. The landowner seeking the permit will present to the authorities a set of plans for the proposed construction. These plans are examined to determine if they meet two conceptually distinct sets of requirements. The first set of requirements is the building code. This code requires that all buildings or all buildings of a certain type (e.g., multiple residences) conform to regulations concerning the types of materials used, fire safety, and the use of water and electricity within the building. Particularly for buildings designed for human habitation, there are normally additional requirements concerning such matters as the amount of space per occupant, lighting, ventilation, plumbing, or electrical service. Some jurisdictions have a housing code in addition to the building code. The housing code frequently operates retroactively—i.e., it sets out minimum requirements for any building in which human beings reside, whether or not it is newly constructed.

      The second set of requirements is the zoning code, in a more restricted sense. The zoning code lays out a series of requirements for construction and land use within particular areas (zones) of the jurisdiction. Zones may be either inclusive or exclusive. If the zones are inclusive, a hierarchy of land uses is created, usually ranging from the least to the most offensive uses. The typical pattern in urban areas begins with the establishment of residential uses and extends to commercial uses and finally to industrial uses. The characteristic of inclusive zoning is that in any given zone the use designated for that zone will be permitted and also any use conceived as being higher—i.e., less offensive. In exclusive zoning, which is less common, only the designated use is permitted in the given zone.

      Modern zoning is characterized by a multiplication of districts. Districts will be designated not only for particular types of uses but also for height and density control. The broad types of uses mentioned above may be elaborately subdivided. Residential districts, for example, may be further subdivided into residential districts for single-family detached houses, for single-family row houses, for two-family houses, for more than two-family houses, and for apartment buildings of given types. Height may be limited by stories or by measurement; open space may be required by setback limitations or by limitations on the amount of the site that may be covered by the building; density may be controlled by limiting the ratio of floor area in the building to the area of the site.

      The establishment of a comprehensive zoning code requires a considerable amount of planning. A full-scale plan, sometimes called a master plan, requires an accurate inventory of the population and of the land-use patterns existing in the area, economic and demographic predictions of what the future is likely to bring, a thorough understanding of the infrastructure that these future changes will require, and considerable imagination in determining what uses should be encouraged and what uses discouraged and where. Such an elaborate plan is normally not legally required before an initial zoning map is drawn. On the other hand, some planning is required, not only as a practical matter but also as a means of fulfilling the universal requirement that the zoning meet some minimum standard of rationality.

      The typical statutory scheme vests a given local governmental body with the power to adopt a zoning plan for the region under its control. Public hearings and publication of the proposed plan for comment are frequently required. Property owners aggrieved by the plan are normally given an opportunity to obtain some kind of review of the decisions of the local governmental body. In the Anglo-American jurisdictions this review is normally had in the regular court system, although administrative review may have to be pursued before recourse to the courts is had. In the civil-law jurisdictions review is normally had in separate administrative courts. Both systems tend to give local governmental bodies considerable discretion in making their determinations.

Environmental (environmental law) and historical controls
      Both environmental regulation and regulation designed to achieve preservation of historic buildings and districts have greatly increased in many developed countries, particularly since World War II. Broadly speaking, environmental regulations fall into two types: (1) those that limit, frequently by some scientific measure, the amount of a given toxin or pollutant that may be emitted into the air or into the water supply and (2) those that attempt to preserve natural areas in their natural form. Examples of the first type of regulation are the federal clean-air and air- quality acts in the United States. Examples of the second type of regulation are the state wetlands (wetland)-preservation acts in the United States and the scenic-designation districts in Europe.

      Historical preservation regulation normally places tight controls on changes in the exterior appearance of buildings. It may leave the building owner with the option of reconfiguring the interior of the building in such a way that he can continue to earn a return on the building, or it may require the preservation of the interior of the building as well. In some areas, if compliance with regulations prevents the building from being profitable, the government may be required to pay the building owner compensation or purchase the building from the owner.

      The concept of eminent domain dates back to at least the early 17th century. It states that the sovereign may take private property for public use, but only upon the payment of just compensation. Many instances of the use of the eminent domain power are universal throughout the West and uncontroversial. Governmental bodies everywhere take pieces of land from private owners in order to construct public roads, build government buildings, or install public services, such as electric wires or water, gas, and sewer pipes.

      As noted above, either as a legal or as a political matter, land-use regulation normally operates only prospectively. For this reason major changes in the type of land use existing in a given area or in the quality and quantity of the buildings are most often accomplished by use of the eminent domain power. urban renewal projects are a familiar example. Here a governmental body condemns an entire area, frequently one containing a number of substandard buildings and inappropriately mixed land uses, and then razes the area. The governmental body may then either develop the area itself or sell the parcels to private developers on the condition that they develop them according to a plan devised by the governmental body.

      Another use of the condemnation power occurs when a governmental body condemns the development rights in a given parcel of property. This may be done because there are doubts about the body's authority to proceed by way of regulation, because there are political objections to its doing so, or because the body wants to achieve greater flexibility. The current land use may continue as long as the owner wants to continue it, but no further development can take place without permission of the governmental body.

      In 2005 a considerable increase in the scope of the eminent domain power resulted from Kelo v. City of New London, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that private land in New London, Conn., could be condemned by the city and transferred to a private development company. The decision prompted a number of states and municipalities to enact private-property-protection laws.

      Whatever interest the governmental body takes, it is required to pay just compensation for the acquisition or use of land. Just compensation is normally defined as the fair market value of the land or interest taken. While there is considerable variation in just-compensation law and even more variation in what is actually awarded, the fair-market-value standard rarely gives the landowner full compensation for the economic loss that he suffers as a result of the taking. Just compensation rarely includes such items as loss of goodwill, moving costs, or counsel fees. Where the landowner retains land in the area and the value of that land is increased because of the public improvement, the increase in value is frequently deducted from the compensation the landowner receives. Thus, even in a situation where the government's obligation to pay compensation is conceded, the person whose land is condemned pays for the privilege of being a citizen of the community in which the land lies.

Constitutional (Constitution of the United States of America) limitations on government regulation of property
      The notion that some losses by a private owner as a result of government action must be borne by him as part of the cost of living in a community is key to understanding how various jurisdictions determine when a governmental unit must proceed by using the eminent domain power and when it may proceed by way of regulation. Clearly, all government regulations affecting the use of land can have an adverse economic impact on the owner of the land, yet no Western legal system requires that all such economic losses be compensated. Some economic losses must be compensated; some need not be compensated. The question, increasingly debated as regulation of land use becomes more pervasive, is how to draw the line between those that must be compensated and those that need not be.

      Every Western jurisdiction requires that, where the government takes property permanently for some public use, some compensation be paid. But few, if any, Western jurisdictions require that compensation be paid when the government enacts a regulation concerning the prospective use of the land, even if the enactment of that regulation substantially decreases the market value of the land. Where and how the line is drawn between these extremes varies considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

      The United States probably has the most developed law on this topic because the enforcement of the provisions of the U.S. Constitution that protect property interests from governmental interference has long been committed to the courts. In the United States two competing and overlapping theories are employed to distinguish “takings,” which must be compensated, from “regulations,” for which compensation need not be paid: (1) Where a governmental body invades the possessory interest of the landowner, compensation must be paid. There are exceptions to this principle, as, for example, in cases where the invasion of the possessory interest is for a short period and justifiable on grounds of protecting public health or safety or where it is unintentional, but the fact that a governmental body has invaded a landowner's possessory interest is a good predictor that a court will require that compensation be paid. (2) Where the government has not invaded a possessory interest of the landowner but has regulated his use of his property in such a way that no viable use of the property remains, compensation will frequently be required. This principle is considerably more controversial than the first, but it has been followed often enough that it too is a good predictor of judicial decisions.

      The problem with the second principle is that it is dependent on the particular configuration of the property interests in question. Thus, a regulation that requires that mining operations be conducted in such a way as not to cause subsidence of the surface of the land would not deprive the owner of the entire tract of land of all use because he could continue to use the surface, nor would it deprive the owner of a deep mine of all possible use, since he could conduct his operations in such a way as to avoid the subsidence, but it would deprive the person who owned only a mine close to the surface of all use, since he could not mine without causing subsidence of the surface. (These are basically the facts of Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon [1922].)

      By and large the French legal system requires compensation only in those situations where the government has permanently deprived a landowner of the possession of his property. The concept of “regulatory taking” does not exist in French law. German law, however, because of the constitutional protection given to property since World War II, has developed a considerable jurisprudence on the topic. By and large the German developments have run a course parallel to those in the United States.

Acquisition and transfer of property interests
      Conceptually the creation of a property interest de novo and its transfer from one person to another have little in common. The first topic concerns the initial allocation of resources and is closely connected with various theories about the origin of property. The second topic involves the more mundane world of everyday legal transactions. Practically, however, the two topics are closely related. Very few tangible things today do not have an owner. Thus, creation of an original title frequently depends on the extinction of another title, either of another private owner or of the state.

      The related concepts of adverse possession and prescription are discussed above in the section. A number of possible rules are buried in the two concepts. One might say, for example, that the expiration of the statute of limitations simply bars the action, but it does not bar the right (limitation of actions, strictly speaking). Alternatively, one might say that the passage of the statutory period bars both the action and the right but does not create any new right in the adverse possessor (extinctive prescription). Or one might say that the adverse possessor, or the one who has fulfilled the requirements for prescription, acquires the title of the one whose title is time-barred (acquisitive prescription, strictly speaking). Both Anglo-American and civil law generally take the more extreme position that, once the rights of the original owner have been extinguished, the person who has prescribed or adversely possessed against those rights has a new original title. At a minimum this means that the new owner may prove his title without having to show how the previous owner acquired his title. It may also mean that he is not subject to restrictions that the original owner may have agreed to. The exercise of the power of eminent domain also normally results in a new title in the sovereign.

Subsequent acquisition
      Granted that a property right, privilege, or power exists in a private person, it may be asked whether that right, power, or privilege can be transferred to someone else. The general assumption in Western law is that it can be. Freedom of contract and freedom of alienation of property (i.e., the rights to enter freely into enforceable contracts on terms agreed to by the parties and to transfer property to whomever the owner wishes, on terms of his choosing) are the twin foundations of a market economy, and, despite the challenges associated with extensive regulation and socialization of the market economies of the West, the basic principle regarding the transfer of property has remained unimpaired. Freedom of alienation is less characteristic of non-Western economies and legal systems. Nonetheless, even these systems allow alienation in a wide variety of circumstances.

contract and conveyance
      Any legal system that distinguishes between property and obligation (as do all Western systems) will distinguish between a promise to alienate property and the alienation itself. The promise may be fully enforceable between the parties; it may even affect the rights of third parties, at least those who know of the promise. But until the property is transferred, the original owner has a real right in the property (good, notionally, against the whole world), and the promisee has simply an enforceable obligation to have the property transferred.

      In many transactions the contract and conveyance take place simultaneously so that the distinction between the two makes no practical difference. If person A buys a watch at a jeweler's, pays for it, and walks out of the store with it on his wrist, both a contract of sale and a conveyance of the watch have taken place; there is no need to distinguish between the two. If, however, person A does not pay for the watch but wears it out of the store and then transfers it to some third person, it becomes important to know whether the jeweler still owned the watch when it was transferred (in which case the jeweler may recover it from the third person) or whether person A owned the watch (in which case the third person now owns it, and the jeweler's sole remedy is against person A). Similarly, if person A pays for the watch but leaves it with the jeweler to have a strap put on it, and the jeweler transfers it to some third party before person A comes back to pick it up, it becomes important to know whether the jeweler still owned the watch (in which case the third party now owns it and person A's sole remedy is against the jeweler) or whether person A owned the watch as soon as he paid for it (in which case he may recover the watch from the third party, and his remedy, if any, will be against the jeweler).

      In the example given above, there are three possible points at which the title to the property could pass: (1) when the contract between the jeweler and person A was formed (normally when they have agreed on a price and a thing to be sold), (2) when person A paid for the watch, or (3) when the jeweler handed over the watch to him. As a general matter, Western law takes the first or the third position and leaves the second possibility to private agreement between the parties. Thus, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, Western law generally provides that transfer of title takes place either when a valid agreement to transfer is made or when the thing is delivered to the conveyee.

Registration and recordation
      In the example of the watch, the distinction between contract and conveyance became important as soon as the rights of a third person became involved. But from the point of view of the third party, any one of the three suggested rules about conveyance might be unsatisfactory, because it may be difficult for the third party to know whether a contract has been formed, whether a payment under it has been made, or even whether the property has been delivered to the purchaser as owner, as opposed to as borrower or hirer. To protect third parties in these situations, many legal systems provide for the registration or recordation of transactions, particularly transactions involving items of great value (such as airplanes or boats or cars) or items of great durability (such as land).

      Registration systems fall into two general types. The first type provides for the registration of title. Under this system transfer of title does not take place unless and until the transfer has been registered in the system. This is the system of the German Grundbuch, in which titles to land are registered, and of the systems for registration of automobile titles that prevail in the United States. The other type of system is a recording system. Under such a system a transfer is effective even if it is not recorded, but a good-faith purchaser who relies on the record is not protected unless the transaction is recorded. Under this system the previous owner who the record shows is still the owner has the power to convey good title to an innocent third party unless and until the new owner records the transaction. This is the system that prevails in most jurisdictions in the United States for land and under the French system of registration for transfers of land. The English land-registration system is more like the German system than it is like the French or the American.

      In Anglo-American law three things must be established about a conveyance before the law applicable to it can be determined: (1) whether it is a sale or a gift, (2) whether it is of personal (movable) or real (immovable) property, and (3) whether it is immediately effective between living parties (inter vivos) or will take effect only upon the death of the conveyor (testamentary). Whereas inter vivos sales and inter vivos gifts of movables are treated quite differently, the conveyancing aspects of inter vivos sales and inter vivos gifts of immovables are quite similar.

      Testamentary sales of either movables or immovables are rare, and testamentary gifts of movables and of immovables are treated similarly. In civil law the distinction between conveyances of movables and conveyances of immovables is far less important than it is in Anglo-American law, whereas the distinction between sales and gifts of immovables is more important than it is in Anglo-American law.

Movables
      In both Anglo-American and civil law the sale of a movable is both a contract and a conveyance. In both Anglo-American and French law the contract also serves to transfer the title to the thing unless the parties agree otherwise. German law, on the other hand, following Roman law, requires that there be a handing over of the thing from the seller to the buyer before title may pass. Indeed, in German law title to the thing will pass even if there is no valid contract of sale, so long as the parties intend to transfer ownership of the thing.

      The difference between the Anglo-American and French systems, on the one hand, and the German, on the other, can be exaggerated. The number of situations in which there is intent to transfer ownership of a thing in German law without there being a valid contract of sale (or gift) is small (see below Gifts (property law)). Further, German law allows the transferor and transferee to agree that the transferor will remain in physical possession of the goods, even though title has passed to the purchaser. Thus, in the example given above where the watch remained with the jeweler to have the strap put on it, all three systems would probably hold that title had passed to the purchaser, but the German system would require evidence that the purchaser and the seller had agreed that the seller retain possession in fact on behalf of the new owner, the purchaser.

      Despite the likelihood that all three systems would hold that the purchaser had secured good title to the watch even though the seller retained physical possession of it, all three systems, somewhat surprisingly, would probably protect the third party to whom the jeweler transferred it. All three systems hold as a basic principle that one cannot transfer more rights in a thing than one has (“Nemo dat quod non habet; nemo plus iuris ad alium transferre potest quam ipse habet”), but all three systems recognize numerous exceptions to this principle, particularly in the case of movables. Both the French and German systems recognize that the actual possessor of movable goods (with the notable exception of stolen goods) may give good title, at least to a good-faith purchaser. The Anglo-American system is narrower in this regard, but, at least in the United States, someone who entrusts his goods to a merchant, such as the jeweler in this case, who regularly deals in such goods, is liable to lose his title to the person to whom the merchant sells the goods.

Sale of immovables (real and personal property)
      Sale of real property in Anglo-American law is radically different from the sale of goods. The Statute of Frauds of 1677, which in one form or another is in effect in all Anglo-American jurisdictions, requires that the transfer of most types of interests in land be made by a writing (deed; see contract). Contracts for the sale of land also have to be evidenced by a writing, but unless the contract and the transfer are evidenced by the same piece of writing (something that in practice is very rare), the contract will not suffice to transfer the title to real property.

      In practice, the sale of real property is always preceded by a contract. The contract will fix the price and other terms of the arrangement and will normally fix a date (the “law day”) on which the seller is to appear with a deed to the property conveying “good and merchantable title” and the buyer is to appear with the purchase price. A contract for the sale of land is specifically enforceable. If either side fails to perform, the other party, if ready, willing, and able to perform, may compel the performance. But the ability to compel the performance is not the same thing as having legal (as opposed to equitable) title to the property. That happens only when the conveyance is made—i.e., when the seller delivers the deed to the buyer. During the period between the contract and the conveyance, the buyer typically obtains financing for the purchase while the seller obtains evidence, based on the public record or on his own muniments of title, that he has merchantable title to the property.

      In French law a contract of sale of an immovable passes title to the immovable. Subsequent registration serves to protect that title against third-party purchasers in good faith from the original vendor. In German law the contract of sale and the transfer are conceptually distinct, but in practice they are frequently merged in the same transaction. The transfer of title is not valid as to third parties, or even between the parties themselves, until the transaction has been registered in the Grundbuch.

      In both the French and German systems the time between the contract and its ultimate consummation is markedly shorter than it is in the Anglo-American system. This may be explained in part by the fact that the public recording and registration systems are more effective (despite the differences in how they operate) and by the fact that in both systems there are fewer possible outstanding interests in land. Another explanation of the differences between Anglo-American and civil-law conveyancing practices would look to the differences in the ways that real-estate transactions are financed.

Gifts (gift)
      In Anglo-American law a promise to make a gift is not a binding contract, because it lacks the essential element of consideration (the requirement that to be valid a contract must involve a bargained-for exchange). By contrast, in civil law a contract to make a gift is valid if it is accompanied by certain formalities and if it does not violate the expectancies that the close relatives of the donor have in the property. It is not surprising, then, that donative transactions operate in civil law in much the same way as do sale transactions.

      Lacking the contract to make the gift valid, Anglo-American law has long puzzled over the donative conveyance of movables. Traditional doctrine holds that there has to be delivery, a transfer of possession of the thing accompanied by donative intent on the part of the donor, and acceptance by the donee. Acceptance will be presumed, but evidence of both delivery and donative intent has long been thought to be essential. The contortions that this doctrine produces, particularly in situations where the donative intent is clear but the thing in question is awkward or impossible to deliver, have long been noted by courts and commentators alike. Recently, Anglo-American courts seem to be increasingly willing to allow the delivery of a writing embodying a statement of the gift to substitute for the delivery of the thing itself.

      Gifts of real property have caused less difficulty in Anglo-American jurisdictions. It is well established that a writing (deed) is necessary for the transfer of title to real estate; it is common for deeds to recite at least nominal consideration, but no preliminary contract is required for title to pass. Recording of the deed is necessary to make it binding as to subsequent good-faith purchasers from (but not donees of) the same donor.

      In civil law a promise of a gift is binding if it is notarized and if it does not deprive the donor's expectant heirs of their obligatory share in his estate (see notary). In French law the contract alone suffices to transfer the property. In German law, as in the case of sale, there must be transfer of possession or an agreement that the donor retain possession on behalf of the donee if the thing is movable or an entry in the Grundbuch if the thing is immovable. Thus, in civil law inter vivos transfers by way of gift parallel those by way of sale, with the important exception that gifts of either movables or immovables may be subject to the overriding interests of the donor's expectant heirs.

      Western law generally permits a property owner not only to transfer his property while he is alive but also to transfer the property that he owns at his death. This is done by a document called a will or testament. A will is revocable at any time before the testator's death, but if he dies without having changed it, it comes into effect. Thus, the principal characteristic of the will in Western legal systems is its ambulatory nature. It confers no rights on the beneficiaries at the time it is executed but does so only at the time of the testator's death, and it transfers not the property that the testator owns when he makes the will but rather what he owns at the time of his death.

      On this much both the Anglo-American and civil-law systems are in agreement. Beyond this they differ substantially, largely for historical reasons. The estates of decedents are administered quite differently in the two systems, and there are substantial differences in the amount of freedom of disposition that each system gives the deceased. These differences are considered in the next section.

      While the form required for a valid will varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, a few common principles are observable: in most civil-law jurisdictions and in some Anglo-American jurisdictions a document entirely in the writing of the testator (holograph, or handwritten document), signed and dated by the testator, will constitute a valid will. In France and Germany such wills are quite common, perhaps even the norm, and they are normally executed after seeking advice from a notary. In those Anglo-American jurisdictions in which they are valid, their use is far less common than in civil-law countries, and they are almost never recommended by professionals.

      Both Anglo-American and civil-law jurisdictions also make use of a formal will, derived from the Roman testament. The characteristic of such a will is that it must be witnessed by a certain number (generally two or three in modern law) of disinterested witnesses. It is normally prepared by a professional, a notary on the Continent or a solicitor or other lawyer in the Anglo-American jurisdictions, and it tends to formality of language.

      Many Western jurisdictions will excuse some of the formalities required for will making in certain circumstances. Soldiers' and sailors' wills, for example, are frequently effective with fewer than the usual formalities, and oral wills (nuncupative wills) at least of certain types of property may be valid if made under certain circumstances, such as when the testator is dying. The nuncupative will is related to, though conceptually distinct from, the causa mortis gift, a device that exists in most Anglo-American and some civil-law jurisdictions.

Protection of the family against intentional disinheritance
      Another major difference between Anglo-American and civil-law systems of succession is that wills, though important, are less important in civil law than they are in the Anglo-American system. In civil law someone who dies leaving a spouse or close kin (descendants or ascendants) may effectively dispose of only a portion of his estate by will. The rest must go to the statutory heirs (inheritance) (known by the English term legitim or in French as réserve héreditaire). Wills remain important in the civil-law systems, however, both because the disposable share of the estate may amount to a large monetary sum and because the statutory share of the heirs tends to be viewed in monetary terms. Thus, the will may direct that certain assets be given to certain members of the family, so long as each member receives the value to which he or she is entitled under the statute.

      Anglo-American law affords, at least in theory, greater freedom of testation. In England a deceased may dispose of his entire estate by will to the detriment of his spouse and children, subject however to contravention by a court upon petition of the spouse or children if they are not adequately provided for. In the United States a deceased may generally not disinherit his spouse but may disinherit his children, even if this leaves them without any means of support.

      Theoretical possibilities, however, do not determine practical realities. Many Americans, for example, avoid the probate system entirely, either because they make lifetime dispositions of their property (for example, in trust) or because their heirs behave as if universal succession were in fact in place—i.e., the heirs divide the property among themselves and pay the creditors and the tax collector out of their own pockets. Similarly, there seems to be little pressure to change the amount of freedom of testation offered to many Anglo-American testators because that freedom is rarely used to disinherit spouses or children. (Perhaps the most common form of American will is one that gives the surviving spouse everything, usually with the tacit understanding that he or she will give anything left over to the children on his or her death.)

      Patterns of intestate succession vary markedly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction in the West, although the differences tend to be ones of detail and not of principle. The typical Anglo-American intestacy statute gives the surviving spouse a half or a third of the property, with the remaining half or two-thirds going to the children of the deceased, the children of any deceased child dividing their parent's share among them (representation). In the absence of a surviving spouse, the children (or their representatives) take all. In the absence of children, the surviving spouse takes all or shares his or her portion with the deceased's parents. Beyond that the patterns vary, but almost all provide for succession by the deceased's next of kin, at least so long as he left grandparents or descendants of grandparents. If no one survives in these categories, some modern systems give the property to the state; others continue the search for blood relatives of the deceased.

      Civil-law patterns do not vary greatly, though they tend to give less to the surviving spouse because he or she is presumed to have a share of the community property (see above Marital owners (property law)). The French system is notable for the fact that it divides the deceased's property between his maternal and paternal kin if there are no descendants. The German system is more like the Anglo-American.

      Historically in the West illegitimate (illegitimacy) children were totally excluded from inheritance. Modern Western legal systems have come increasingly to recognize inheritance rights of illegitimates, although not all systems give them equal rights with legitimates.

      English law did not recognize adoption until 1926. Modern Anglo-American law has come to recognize adopted children as, in most jurisdictions and for the most part, equal in inheritance rights to natural children. The civil law has had less difficulty recognizing the rights of adopted children because Roman law freely allowed adoption.

Charles Donahue, Jr. Gregory Alexander

Aspects of property law in communist (communism) and postcommunist countries
      With the fall of communism in most of the world, private ownership gained ascendancy as never before. Even in a number of countries that remained politically dominated by the Communist Party, such as China, private ownership of some form of property became permissible and was in some cases encouraged.

      The property picture that has emerged in the postcommunist world is fluid and highly complex. Postcommunist countries do not share any single regime of private property ownership. Indeed, within each country different forms of property may be subject to different regimes of ownership, including purely private ownership, various hybrid forms of private ownership, and state ownership. Foreign individuals and entities may or may not be permitted to own property depending on the country and the asset in question. The following discussions of Russia, Romania, and China exemplify some of the changes occurring in countries that have loosened the restrictions on private property ownership.

The problem of land ownership
      Although the Russian Federation's constitution (1993) and Civil Code (1995) clearly recognize the right to private ownership of land, the law on that topic, including the Land Code (2001) and laws on the sale of farmland (2002), took several years to resolve. At the turn of the 21st century, virtually all of Russian land was still publicly owned. Privately owned land was subject to regulation by presidential decrees, which strictly limited a landowner's rights. In this era, Russian law recognized only three circumstances in which land could be privately owned: (1) the land is used for new construction of individual housing or is located under an existing building that is already privately owned; (2) the land is used for personal subsidiary farming or country-house gardening; and (3) the land is used for agricultural purposes. Non-Russians are barred from owning land, but they are permitted to lease it. Transfers of land and other natural resources may take place only within the guidelines established by the Russian Civil Code. All land transactions must be registered with a federal governmental body, and any failure to register a transaction will nullify the transfer. For transfers of nonlanded property, however, the registration of transactions is not required.

      The right of perpetual use of a state-owned plot of land can be granted to persons by a state-authorized agency. The person to whom the use-right has been granted also has the right to lease the plot to another for a fixed term, but any other transfer of the plot is prohibited. If a building or other immovable object on a state-owned plot of land is transferred, the right of perpetual use of the land under the building goes with the building.

      In some cases individuals may have another kind of property right in land known as inheritable possession for life. A citizen who possesses land through the right of inheritable possession may gratuitously lease it to another for a fixed term, but he is not permitted to sell or pledge the land or enter into any other transaction that involves the transfer of the land plot. By virtue of these restrictions, perpetual use and inheritable life possession interests do not constitute private ownership. Accordingly, they are not constitutionally protected against government actions that infringe upon them. Moreover, the rights can be terminated by the state without due process procedures.

Mortgages (mortgage) and pledges
      The Russian Federation's Civil Code permits mortgages and pledges to be used as devices for securing the performance of legal obligation, notably loan agreements. Although mortgages and pledges are very common in the West, they are quite rare (and quite complicated) in Russia.

      Russian law distinguishes between the general rules that apply to all pledges and the special rules that apply to real-estate mortgages and pledges of movables. With respect to real-estate mortgages, the mortgagee holds the right to satisfy his money claim against the debtor from the debtor's real estate. This gives the mortgagee priority, with respect to the real estate, over the mortgagor's other creditors. In simple terms, a mortgage in Russia represents the mortgagee's right of a priority claim upon the secured land if the mortgagor defaults on the loan. Yet the mortgaged property remains owned by the mortgagor. Russian law expressly prohibits the mortgagee's acquisition of ownership of the mortgaged property. (In the United States, whether the mortgagee or the mortgagor holds title to the property depends upon the theory of mortgage followed in the relevant state. Under the title theory the mortgagee holds title, while under the lien theory the mortgagor does.)

      A mortgage may be established to secure a financial obligation under a credit agreement, loan agreement, lease, contract or other agreement. It may be established only with respect to property owned or leased by the mortgagor.

      Two features of Russian mortgage law make mortgaging less attractive than it is in the West. The first is the cost. Mortgage agreements must be notarized—a process that is far more complex in Russia than it is in the United States. Mortgage agreements must also be registered with a state agency, which can be expensive. Registration alone costs 3 percent of the mortgaged property's value.

      The second feature is a highly complex foreclosure procedure. A mortgagee may foreclose on the mortgaged property only pursuant to a court order. Foreclosure may be postponed, for up to one year, in two circumstances: first, where a private person pledges real estate for purposes not connected with commercial activities; and second, where the mortgaged property is used for agricultural purposes. Upon foreclosure the mortgaged property is sold by public sale or auction. Public sales are organized and conducted by special state agencies, while auctions are conducted by a special organization chosen by the mortgagee with the mortgagor's consent. Together with the cost problem, the inflexibility of these procedures deters widespread use of the mortgage.

      In 2005 Russian mortgage law adopted the mortgage bond (also known as an encumbrance), a security that has been common in most legal systems outside Russia. A mortgage bond certifies the rights of its legal owner to fulfillment of a financial obligation secured by the property listed in the mortgage agreement; no other proof of the obligation's existence is needed. The primary aim of the mortgage bond is to facilitate the turnover of mortgage rights and refinancing by banks and other lending institutions.

      The post-Soviet Russian constitution expressly guarantees the right of inheritance. (By comparison, the U.S. Constitution does not uphold any such guarantee.) Several provisions of the Russian Civil Code define the country's inheritance system.

      Like its Anglo-American and continental European counterparts, Russian inheritance law recognizes two methods of inheritance upon death: by will and by operation of law (known in the Anglo-American world as intestate succession). Testators are free to bequeath their property by will to anyone they wish. However, as a civil law system, Russian law limits the testator's freedom of testation by recognizing the so-called legitimate portion (the legitim) of the estate. The persons entitled to this share of the estate are the testator's minor or dependent children (including adopted children), parents, and other persons who were financially dependent on the testator. Regardless of what the will provides or fails to provide, these persons are entitled to receive half of what they would have received had the testator died without a will—i.e., through intestate succession.

      If an individual dies without a will, the qualified heirs are identified and ranked according to their relationship to the decedent. The relational groups are categorized in the following way, with priority accorded in succeeding order: (1) the decedent's spouse, any biological and adopted children, and any biological and adoptive parents; (2) the decedent's siblings and grandparents as well as any nephews or nieces; (3) the decedent's uncles and aunts; (4) the decedent's great-grandparents on either or both sides; (5) children of nieces and nephews of the deceased; (6) grandchildren of nieces and nephews of the deceased; and (7) stepchildren and stepparents. Those having a more remote relationship to the decedent are not entitled to a claim as heirs. This pattern of priority is similar to the pattern prevailing in the United States. Either the heirs or a notary serves as the estate's executor or administrator. The decedent may nominate an executor in the will.

Trusts (trust)
      The Russian Civil Code establishes the concept of trust management, under which an owner may transfer one or more assets in trust to another person, known as a trust manager, who assumes a legal obligation to manage the property in the interests of the owner (or those of a designated third party). Transfer of the asset to the trust manager neither entails nor implies a transfer of legal ownership. Trust management relations are regarded as strictly contractual in nature, and the arrangement lacks the fiduciary aspect that is at the core of the Anglo-American trust institution. Under Anglo-American law, the core of the trust is the transfer of legal title in an asset to a party, A, who acts in a strictly fiduciary capacity for the beneficiary, B. Although A is the legal owner of the asset, he must act for the benefit of B.

Private land-use servitudes (servitude)
      As is the case in civil-law countries, Russia recognizes and accords some rights to private land-use interests that fall short of ownership. Notably, Russian law recognizes land-use servitudes as devices by which private owners may restrict or otherwise control the use of their land. The Civil Code defines the single condition under which a servitude may exist: it permits a landowner to acquire the right affirmatively to use another's land in some way, such as access across a neighbour's land or the right to lay pipelines across another's land. (In American property law such servitudes are called easements (easement).) A landowner may acquire a servitude by mutual agreement or by court order following a demonstration of necessity. Such servitudes are property interests that run with the land, as opposed to mere contractual rights. As such, their benefits and burdens are transferred with the affected land as ownership of the land itself changes hands.

The legal land regime in general
      The postcommunist legal land regime in Romania is governed by the 1864 Romanian Civil Code. As is the case in the post-Soviet land system, Romania follows what is basically a civil-law system. Some features, however, are strikingly different from the more typical civil-law land system. Most notably, the 1991 Romanian constitution, together with various pieces of enacting legislation, expressly restricts land ownership to Romanians. No foreign citizen or stateless person may own Romanian land. However, companies incorporated in Romania that are partially or even entirely owned by foreign individuals or legal entities may own Romanian land.

      The Romanian constitution and Civil Code recognize two forms of ownership: private and public. Public property belongs to the state, meaning that while the state may lease the property, it is not authorized to sell it. The term private property does not imply that such a property is never owned by the state (it may be so owned). Rather, the term indicates that the property in question may be sold, unlike public property. The Civil Code provides that public property applies to assets that, either according to positive law or by their very nature, “are of public use or interest.” Resources that are public property include minerals, water with energy potential, territorial waters, and beaches. In the years since the end of communism in Romania, there have been reports of the state selling state-owned industries for excessively low prices. The perception by some Romanians is that private entities are unfairly taking property from the state and in this way “stealing” from them.

Land-transfer transactions
      While Romanian law recognizes private ownership of land, certain features differ significantly from land transfer. Agricultural land is given special treatment (as is the case in several other postcommunist legal systems) by virtue of the restrictions placed upon its acquisition. Only families may purchase land, and the amount that a family may purchase is limited to 500 acres (about 200 hectares). Moreover, the transfer of agricultural property may be subject to special preemptive rights of neighbours or leaseholders who are able to claim an interest in the same land.

      Land transfers in Romania occur most commonly through sale, gift, inheritance, or prescription. All transfers must be registered with a special state agency.

      Laws governing landlord-tenant relationships in Romania resemble laws existing in most other countries in that the statutes regulating the relationship between landlord and tenant combine aspects of contract and real property law. The duration of a lease, for example, is established by a contract, and Romanian law recognizes different sorts of leasehold interests, including fixed-term interests and interests terminable at will by either party. Leasehold interests may be assigned or made subject to a security interest.

      The landlord's and tenant's respective obligations are similar, in broad terms, to those defined in American law. The landlord has an obligation to deliver possession of the leased premises to the tenant and to ensure the tenant's quiet enjoyment of the premises. The landlord is also under an implied, though waivable, obligation of suitability for the intended use. This means, for example, that in the case of a residential lease, the landlord is implicitly obligated to deliver the premises in good, habitable condition. However, this obligation may be waived by a contrary term on the lease. The tenant is required to avoid waste, meaning that it is the tenant's responsibility, not the landlord's, to make necessary repairs. Although the law permits a tenant to assign or sublet the premises, a lease may restrict the tenant's right to do so.

China (Chinese law)
General background
      From approximately 1955 to 1980, Chinese private law was modeled after the private law system of the former Soviet Union (see Soviet law). Because Soviet civil law had been greatly influenced by the German Civil Code, this meant that China was, by and large, a “civil law” country. It was not until 1998, however, that China made a serious effort to develop a civil code. The first draft of the legal texts was based on a single legislative act, which combined government regulations with judicial decisions that interpreted legislation and regulations. (Although in theory judicial interpretation is not binding, in practice it is, as lower courts routinely draw upon judicial interpretations to guide their decisions.)

      In 2007 the National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China promulgated its first property rights law. Following the transition made more than a quarter of a century ago to market-oriented economic policies, the Chinese government sought to provide a more secure legal foundation for the country's growing urban middle class and for private entrepreneurs. The law does not cover every aspect of what Western lawyers consider to be part of property law. Article 3 of the new property law clearly signaled the purpose of developing a legal property regime designed to fit the country's hybrid socialist (socialism)-market economy. It declares, “During the primary stage of socialism, the State shall adhere to the basic economic system, with public ownership playing a dominant role and diverse forms of ownership developing side by side.” Such wording, along with the dynamic nature of China's economic order, suggests that changes to the property rights law will follow.

Gifts (gift)
      One area not covered by the 2007 property rights law was the law regarding gifts. Chinese law classifies gifts as contracts. On the basis of the body of contract law that was adopted in 1999, a gift is defined as a contract under which the donor promises the gratuitous transfer of a gift to the donee and the donee agrees to accept the gifted property. The donor is permitted under certain circumstances to rescind the gift before the rights are transferred, but if the contract has been notarized, or if the gift is designated for the relief of poverty to aid victims of a disaster, it is not revocable. In these cases the donee may enforce the gift if the donor fails to transfer the property. Finally, the donor may impose conditions on the gift, making the contract resemble what Anglo-American law regards as a contract of sale. Conditions are not necessary, however, so the contract of gift is, in the Anglo-American lawyer's eyes, an unusual type of contract. (It seems odd to the Anglo-American lawyer to characterize a gift as a contract because Anglo-American law normally draws a clear distinction between the two. Contracts normally are legally enforceable only if consideration—a quid pro quo—has been provided, whereas gifts require no consideration to be enforced. They are strictly gratuitous.)

      Under the 1999 law, the contract may be written or oral, and it also requires that the donee make some affirmative indication of acceptance. There is no need for an intention to make an immediate transfer of ownership to the donee. If the donor intends the gift to take effect in the future and the donee accepts, the donee thereby holds a legal right to enforce the gift as a matter of contract law. This is a significant departure from the common law of gifts, which generally does not permit gifts to take effect in the future.In another departure from the common law, delivery to the donee is not required for the gift to be enforceable. Although delivery is a central feature of the contract of gift, in that it effects a change in ownership, delivery is not necessary for the validity of the contract of gift.

      Chinese law permits an owner of property to dispose of it at death either by will or by intestate succession. Chinese intestate succession law resembles the basic pattern established in common-law countries. It gives fixed shares of the intestate estate to relatives according to a statutorily designated order of priority. The first priority is given to the decedent's spouse, children and other descendants, and parents. Any deceased children may be represented by their surviving children or more remote descendants. The next order of priority includes siblings and grandparents.

      Chinese and American intestate succession laws differ markedly in a few areas; for example, Chinese courts have discretion to deviate from the statutory pattern if the change is structured to provide more for those persons with whom the decedent lived or otherwise supported. Another major difference is that Chinese law requires that any designated beneficiary under a will, other than a person who is an heir under the intestacy statute, must give notice of the intent to accept the bequeathed property within two months after receiving notice of the bequest. Any beneficiary who fails to give such notice is deemed to waive rights under the will. By contrast, Anglo-American law (common law) reverses the presumption: a devisee under a will must disclaim any bequeathed property; otherwise, the law presumes that the devise is accepted.

      The formalities required under Chinese law for a valid will closely resemble those prescribed by American law. Generally, wills must be written and witnessed, although an unwitnessed will is valid if it was handwritten by the testator. Oral wills are permitted only in case of an emergency; once the emergency has ceased, the will is no longer valid, making oral wills in China quite similar to what Western law calls a “gift causa mortis.”

      Chinese law permits individuals to enter into legacy-support agreements with others. Under such an agreement, one person is obligated to provide for the other's maintenance, and this duty entitles the maintained party to a legacy (or bequest) under the promisor's will. To the extent that the will is inconsistent with or does not meet this obligation, it is invalid.

      Like other non-common-law legal systems, China's succession system has no device corresponding to the common-law trust. While one can create a valid contract with a beneficiary of one's estate, Chinese contract law does not recognize any sort of contract that serves as the equivalent of a trust.

Sales of land and landed assets
      In general, land ownership in China cannot be privately transferred, since all land is owned by the public, either the state or the community. Only the right to use land and assets situated on the land are subject to market transactions.

      In order for the owner of assets situated on land (landed assets) to be able to sell them, he must have the right to use the land as well as ownership of the asset and certificates of registration for both. Both the use-right and asset ownership must be transferred together; the two cannot be separated. Sale of landed assets is based on and governed by contract and contract law. Contracts are required to be in a writing signed by both parties. A contract signed by one party only is unenforceable, even against the party who signed it.

      Full performance of a contract of sale does not itself transfer ownership of a landed asset. Even though the buyer has paid the full purchase price, he does not gain ownership of the asset until and unless the transaction has been registered with the appropriate local governmental agency.

      All sales of landed assets are subject to an implied warranty of quality. The seller must provide a certificate of quality when selling the asset. In cases where the landed asset is commercial (as opposed to single-family residential) housing, a government licensing system is in effect. The housing department will inspect the housing project, evaluate it, and determine whether to issue the certificate. The buyer may also inspect the property before or after closing the deal. If the buyer discovers major defects after closing the transaction, he still has the right to void the contract and seek damages.

Gregory Alexander

Additional Reading

General sources
An accessible, comprehensive treatment of property law is to be found in Frederick H. Lawson (ed.), Property and Trust (1973– ), vol. 6 of a major undertaking of the International Association of Legal Science, International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law. The civil-law systems (with particular focus on Louisiana) are treated comparatively in A.N. Yiannopoulos, Property: The Law of Things, Real Rights, Real Actions, 4th ed. (2001), and its supplements, Personal Servitudes: Usufruct, Habitation, Rights of Use, 4th ed. (2000), and Predial Servitudes, 2nd ed. (1997).

History
The origins of the Western idea of property are examined in Barry Nicholas, An Introduction to Roman Law (1962, reissued 1996); W.W. Buckland, A Text-Book of Roman Law from Augustus to Justinian, 3rd ed., rev. by Peter Stein (1963, reprinted with corrections, 1975); A.W.B. Simpson, A History of the Land Law, 2nd ed. (1986), also on English law; and on that of the Continent, Helmut Coing, Europäisches Privatrecht, 2 vol. (1985–89). The history of American property law is discussed in Lawrence M. Friedman, A History of American Law, 2nd ed. (1985, reprinted 1991); Gregory S. Alexander, Commodity & Propriety: Competing Visions of Property in American Legal Thought, 1776–1970 (1997); and James W. Ely, Jr., The Guardian of Every Other Right: A Constitutional History of Property Rights, 2nd ed. (1998).

Theory
Surveys of classical and of early modern theories of property law are found in J. Roland Pennock and John W. Chapman (eds.), Property (1980), which includes a look at the future of the Western concept of property in Charles Donahue, Jr., “The Future of the Concept of Property Predicted from Its Past,” pp. 28–68. Also valuable are Alan Ryan, Property and Political Theory (1984); and Richard Tuck, Natural Rights Theories: Their Origin and Development (1979, reissued 1987). Modern property law is discussed in Jeremy Waldron, The Right of Private Property (1988); Stephen R. Munzer, A Theory of Property (1990); and Margaret Jane Radin, Reinterpreting Property (1993).

Specific modern legal systems
An excellent synoptic survey of American property law is Joseph William Singer, Introduction to Property (2001). Other general works on American property law include William B. Stoebuck and Dale A. Whitman, The Law of Property, 3rd ed. (2000); Herbert Hovenkamp and Sheldon F. Kurtz, The Law of Property: An Introductory Survey, 5th ed. (2001); Richard R. Powell, The Law of Real Property, rev. by Patrick J. Rohan (1949– ), a multivolume classic treatise; and A. James Casner (ed.), American Law of Property, 7 vol. in 8 (1952–54).English property law is explored in Kevin Gray and Susan Francis Gray, Elements of Land Law, 4th ed. (2005); and Robert Megarry and H.W.R. Wade, The Law of Real Property, 6th ed., rev. by Charles Harpum (2000).French law is reviewed in Maurice S. Amos, Amos and Walton's Introduction to French Law, 3rd ed., rev. by Frederick H. Lawson, A.E. Anton, and L. Neville Brown (1967); Christian Larroumet, Les Biens, droits réels principaux, 3rd ed. (1997), vol. 2 of Droit civil; Gabriel Marty and Pierre Raynaud, Les Biens, 2nd ed. (1980), and Les Régimes matrimoniaux, 2nd ed. (1985); and Marcel Planiol and Georges Ripert, Traité pratique de droit civil français, 2nd ed., 14 vol. (1952–62).German property law is analyzed in Norbert Horn, Hein Kötz, and Hans G. Leser, German Private and Commercial Law: An Introduction, trans. from German (1982); and E.J. Cohn et al., Manual of German Law, 2nd completely rev. ed., 2 vol. (1968–71).

Specific studies
Non-Western systems of property law are treated in chapter 2 of the International Encyclopedia of Comparative Law, covering Islamic, Hindu, and African law; and Max Gluckman, The Ideas in Barotse Jurisprudence (1965, reprinted with minor amendments, 1972). S.F.C. Milsom, The Legal Framework of English Feudalism (1976, reprinted 1986), examines the tradition of land tenure; D.R. Coquillette, “Mosses from an Old Manse: Another Look at Some Historic Property Cases About the Environment,” Cornell Law Review 64:761–821 (June 1979), discusses the nuisance law; William B. Stoebuck, “A General Theory of Eminent Domain,” Washington Law Review 47:553–608 (August 1972), traces the history of the governmental authority over private property. “Possessive individualism” is discussed in C.B. Macpherson, The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism: Hobbes to Locke (1962, reprinted with corrections, 1985). George L. Haskins, “Extending the Grasp of the Dead Hand: Reflections on the Origins of the Rule Against Perpetuities,” University of Pennsylvania Law Review 126:19–46 (November 1977), explores social conflicts in connection with this rule. C. Reich, “The New Property,” Yale Law Journal 73(5):733–787 (April 1964), looks at government-granted rights as “property.” Property and its relationship to the family and family law are the topic of Mary Ann Glendon, The New Family and the New Property (1981), and The Transformation of Family Law: State, Law, and Family in the United States and Western Europe (1989, reissued 1996). Corporate property is covered in Adolf A. Berle and Gardiner C. Means, The Modern Corporation and Private Property, rev. ed. (1968).Ownership is discussed in Joseph William Singer, Entitlement: The Paradoxes of Property (2000); A.M. Honoré, “Ownership,” ch. 5, pp. 107–147 in A.G. Guest (ed.), Oxford Essays in Jurisprudence (1961). Modern legal relations between landlord and tenant are examined in Charles Donahue, Jr., “Change in the American Law of Landlord and Tenant,” Modern Law Review 37:242–263 (May 1974). Trusts are covered in Austin Wakeman Scott and William Franklin Fratcher, The Law of Trusts, 4th ed. (1987– ). Civil-law functional equivalents of the trust are discussed in Christian de Wulf, The Trust and Corresponding Institutions in the Civil Law (1965). American constitutional protection of property is the subject of Richard A. Epstein, Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain (1985); and William A. Fischel, Regulatory Takings: Law, Economics, and Politics (1995). Comparative treatments of various specific aspects of property law are Gregory S. Alexander, The Global Debate over Constitutional Property: Lessons for American Takings Jurisprudence (2006); A.J. van der Walt, Constitutional Property Clauses: A Comparative Analysis (1999); and John P. Dawson, Gifts and Promises: Continental and American Law Compared (1980).American trusts and estate law are examined in William M. McGovern, Jr., and Sheldon F. Kurtz, Wills, Trusts, and Estates, Including Taxation and Future Interests, 2nd ed. (2001). A good historical study of American inheritance law is Carole Shammas, Marylynn Salmon, and Michel Dahlin, Inheritance in American: From Colonial Times to the Present (1987, reissued 1997). Property from the perspective of law and economics is presented in G. Calabresi and A.D. Melamed, “Property Rules, Liability Rules, and Inalienability: One View of the Cathedral,” Harvard Law Review 85:1089–1128 (April 1972).Charles Donahue, Jr. Gregory Alexander

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Universalium. 2010.

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