Property Law in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has different property law systems for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The Property law in England and in Wales comes from English Common Law System which dates back to the feudal system of land ownership.

Property is something that is owned by a person or entity. English law of property is divided into two types: ‘Personal property’ and ‘Real property’. Real is any interest in land, real estates, growing plants or the improvements and developments on it and Personal is everything else.

The basic theory of English Property law of land is that all land in England and Wales is owned by the crown. The individual does not own the land but merely holds it from the Crown. When the grant of land is made to a person, he would be entitled to hold the land for a particular period of time.

The word ‘estate’ refers the length of time for which the land is held. Estates were divided into two main groups: estate of freehold and estate of leasehold (before 1925, known as estate less than free hold).

English law has different statutes for both unregistered and registered land. However from October, 2003 it is compulsory to register all lands.

Now, personal properties can be divided into two main categories: corporeal personal which includes items such as, animals, jewelry etc. and incorporeal personal, such as, copyrights, stocks, bonds etc.

In English law of property, there are still some differences between these two types of property. Such as:

  • Real property like land must be transferred by deed. For personal property the rules are much flexible.
  • Real property may have different incidents like co-ownership, leasing etc. where personal property may have not.
  • There is no absolute ownership of land of real under English law. But personal properties there are absolute ownerships.
  • Upon death of the owner real property like land, house, shop etc. goes to the heir whereas, personal property is instead divided by laws of the Statute of Distributions.
  • Under English law, a will of lands doesn’t need proof, but a will of personal property or of personal and real property together does.

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