Land Law "What is Land?" Revision

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Land Law Notes

The definition of Land

There is no single, authoritative, statutory definition of what ‘land’ is. There are a number of different definitions in various statutes which tend to repeat and expand on one another. However, there is a part definition of land in Law of Property Act 1925 (LPA 1925), s.205 (1) (ix). The LPA 1925 is one of the statutes that make up the 1925 property legislation, which is the basis of modern land law.

Law of Property Act 1925, s.205 (1) (ix)

‘Land’ includes land of any tenure, and mines and minerals, whether or not held apart from the surface, buildings or parts of buildings (whether the horizontal, vertical or made in any other way) and other corporeal hereditaments; also a manor, advowson, and a rent and other incorporeal hereditaments, and an easement, right, privilege, or benefit in, or derived from land;…and ‘mines and minerals’ include any strata or seam of minerals or substances in or under any land, and powers of working and getting the same…; and ‘manor’ includes a lordship, and reputed manor or lordship; and ‘hereditament’ means any real property which on an intestacy occurring before the commencement of this Act might have developed upon an heir.

Land of any tenure

Land of any tenure’ broadly speaking means both freehold and leasehold land counts as land for land law purposes. Freehold land is owned effectively ‘forever’, whereas leasehold land is owned by a tenant for a definite period (short or long), but is not ‘forever’. A leasehold is created out of a freehold.

Historically, distinctions were not made between ‘land’ and other types of property but between real property (realty) and personal property (personalty).

Real property – refers to freehold land

Personal property – all other property that is not freehold land

Chattel – all property that is not real property, including leasehold land, and is also often used as the opposite to ‘fixture’. Leasehold land came to have importance; however, it was called a ‘chattel real’, because it has many of the characteristics of real property.

Originally, all land was freehold, so real property meant freehold land. The word real comes from the Latin word res meaning ‘the thing itself’. Real property could be protected by the real actions, which means that a court action could be brought to restore the land itself to the true owner, rather than an award of money damages as compensation for its loss. It is still true today that courts would usually order specific performance of a contract to sell land (they will order the land to be transferred to the buyer – rather than award damages).

By the time the idea of a lease was developed, the definition of real property as freehold was too fixed to be altered; therefore leasehold property became known as personal property. As a result, real actions were not available to leaseholders. However, as land now includes ‘land of…


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