The area of law that deals with the ownership of property and any disputes that may arise as a result of this, property law can be a fascinating field to explore.

The field of property law encompasses a wide range of issues, stemming from the ownership of land as well as the ownership of material possessions.

Given that we live in a world where status is largely determined by the things we possess, it’s easy to see why property law is such an in-demand field since there will always be arguments to settle and laws to defend regarding possessions.

Over the years, property law has changed drastically as you might imagine, and it’s a lot more complicated now than it was when monarchies gave out property according to heirship and loyalty.

These days the field of law covers everything from leasing to ownership, individual vs group-owned property, the transfer of property and much more.

If you’re looking for some clarity regarding what exactly property law is and whether it’s the right field of law for you to pursue, read on as we dive deep into the fascinating topic.

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Land is just one part of property law. Source: Unsplash

Historically, property law protected the wealthy and the elite, and didn’t do a lot to help out the poor.

It used to be the system by which monarchies could hold all the power by taking control of all property, and distributing it according to archaic notions of fealty and loyalty.

It wasn’t until the Napoleonic Code was introduced in 1804 in France that property ownership became more widely thought of as a right for every individual. After this Code came into effect, many other countries followed suit and put laws into place that served the interests of those who wished to purchase property.

Of course, these days, this is no longer the case and property law doesn’t discriminate one way or the other, it only serves to protect what is rightfully ours.

What property law means related to land in modern times is something that is more or less universally agreed upon, at least in some key regards.

For most countries, it’s lawful that an individual is able to hold onto property they own regardless of government intervention. This of course can change if the government decides to go through a legal process to have you evicted for whatever reason, but generally speaking your property is yours and yours alone.

The other main idea pertaining to land ownership is that the line is drawn when it comes to certain things, so for example it isn’t lawful to own wild animals or water, though there will be exceptions to this rule in certain cases.

Where property law gets really interesting is when you have a dispute of ownership over land. These disputes can range from inheritance to fraud, and much more, and it’s the job of the property lawyer to determine who has the strongest legal case to own the property so that the dispute can be appropriately settled.

What role do personal possessions play in property law?

possessions
Personal possessions also play a key role in property law. Source: Unsplash

It would be easy to make the mistake of thinking property law only focusses on land, whereas it actually encompasses the possession of objects too.

Personal property is what lawyers would consider anything to be something tangible that an individual might own, such as jewellery and pets. The legal term for these physical possessions that exclude land is chattel.

Intangible property exists too, in the form of things such as stocks and copyrights, yet this falls under the umbrella of intellectual property law.

The role of property law with regards to personal possessions is to protect the individual’s rightful ownership of them, and their right to recover property that has been stolen from them.

There two types of ownership one can have, which are referred to as actual and constructive.

Whereas actual possession refers to the knowing ownership of an item, constructive possession refers to the intent to own an item when it isn’t currently in the individual’s control.

For instance, if you have a watch on your wrist that you purchased, that’s an example of actual possession. But if it’s locked in a safe somewhere and you have the key on your person, then it’s constructive possession.

Then there are the issues of what happens to possessions when they are lost, abandoned, or misplaced. This is where things can get interesting, as if there are multiple people involved claiming ownership and no way to prove who is the real owner, you could have a real situation on your hands.

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What are three different types of property law?

So now that we’ve established that property law not only covers land but personal possessions, too, what are the three types of property law that you can focus on?

Well, alongside private property there is also public and collective property to consider.

Each of these three types of property requires different approaches from a legal perspective, so it’s worth reading up on each to find out which direction you want to head in.

Where it gets really interesting is when you have some form of shared or joint ownership of property, since there can be a lot of grey areas and disputes to untangle.

What are the 5 property rights?

You may be wondering what rights you have when it comes to property ownership, and generally speaking there are five main rights that all of us should have.

If you study property law, you will of course need to be exceptionally well-versed in all five rights, since it may well be the case that you need to defend them on someone else’s behalf one day.

  •  Right of possession
  •  Right of control
  •  Right of exclusion
  •  Right of disposition
  •  Right to derive income

All of these rights can be willfully waived by the property owner at any point, if, for example, they wish to rent out their home they would relinquish the right of exclusion.

It also isn’t as simple as just knowing what the rights are if you plan on pursuing a career in property law. As you might imagine, property law gets a lot more tricky when you bring local government rules into the equation.

There’s also the issue of an individual’s property ownership obligations, such as paying taxes and keeping up with insurance. If the individual fails to pay taxes for example they may give up their property rights.

You have to be able to know the basics when it comes to an individual’s rights, but also have the ability to read up on local laws and dive into the specifics of every case you come across.

Is property law an in-demand field?

Property law is more often than not an in-demand field, due to the fact that people will always own property whether in the form of personal possessions or houses and businesses.

New properties are built on a regular basis and for every property, there is the possibility of disputes that require a property lawyer to settle.

What’s more, following times of economic recession or pandemics, there is usually initiatives put on by the government to revive the economy by putting thousands of people to work on houses which has a knock-on effect on the need for property lawyers.

One of the most promising careers for an aspiring property lawyer is a local government position. This way you can develop your skills and make the most of free training and resources so you can get ahead in the field and work towards a lucrative salary.

Just like many other branches of law, such as:

What can you do with property law?

signing contract
Drafting up contracts is one of the main responsibilities of a property lawyer. Source: Unsplash

You’ve got this far, so you’re obviously serious about your interest in property law.

But what exactly is it that you do with property law on a day-to-day basis?

What are your main roles and responsibilities?

Typically, as a property lawyer, you will get involved with all kinds of property transactions. This is the most common duty you will have, and in the beginning, this will more likely than not involve drafting up contracts and helping move the process along smoothly between the interested parties.

As you rise up the ranks you will be able to deal with more high-profile cases and tackle more expensive properties, and it’s at this point that you’ll be able to specialise if you wish to.

Some of the daily jobs that you might have to complete include everything from preparing documents to negotiating property deals and finalising proceedings.

It’s imperative that you work on your communication and negotiation skills if you want to make it as a property lawyer, as you will have to rely on them frequently in your job. You’ll need to be comfortable writing, and of course knowledgeable about everything related to property law so that you can draw up contracts seamlessly.

You have to be detail-oriented and have an eye for mistakes since you’ll want to get things right the first time.

With Superprof, you can learn from some of the best private law tutors in your area, or even take a class online to brush up on your property law knowledge.

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Samuel

Sam is an English teaching assistant and freelance writer based in southern Spain. He enjoys exploring new places and cultures, and picking up languages along the way.