Brief background on English Land Law

(Image from CNA Traveller)

English land law has its origins in the feudal system established by William the Conqueror.  the said King started standardising England’s feudal rules and compiled a reference for all land and its value in the Domesday Book of 1086.

In this system, all land was held by the Monarch. Estates in land (not ownership), were granted to lords, who in turn parcelled out property to tenants in return for military service or work. The feudal system of land tenure ended after the English Civil War. When the monarchy was restored, Parliament enacted the Tenures Abolition Act 1660 which held that landlord’s obligations of service and military provision were replaced by monetary payments and an annual payment financed by taxation.


Ownership of land

No one can technically “own” the land. Only the Crown can own land. What people commonly refer to as ownership is really an “estate” in land. This can be divided into four basic categories:

  1. Freehold estates

a.) Fee Simple Absolute

b.) Defeasible Estate (voidable possession and use)

– fee simple determinable/ subject to a condition subsequent/ subject to executory limitation

c.) Finite Estate (limited to lifetimes)

– life estate/ fee tail

2.) Leasehold Estates

3.) Concurrent Estates (owned or possessed by two or more individuals simultaneously)

  • Teanancy by the entirety
  • Joint Tenancy
  • Tenancy in common
  • Statutory Estates

4.) Equitable Estates (neither ownership nor possession)

  • Future Interests (interests in real or personal property, a gift or trust)
  • Incorporeal Interests (Rights of a user, rights enforceable on agreement)
    • Easements (in gross/in appurtenant)
    • Profits a prendre
    • Real Covenenants
    • Equitable Servitudes
    • Licences
  • Liens (general and specific)



Categories: Property Law

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