A Guide to Understanding Property

Property in the real world is what belongs either to or on something, whether as a physical entity or as part of that entity. Some properties are common in real life like color, height and other human defined traits. Other properties are not. It is only in the language of the law that these properties are referred to as ‘personal property.’ They are rights that are granted or conferred on the individuals by governments or private entities and the term ‘personal property’ is used here in a very broad sense to cover a wide range of instances.

A good example is ownership of a house. This happens when you possess a physical structure like a house, apartment, shop, bank, school etc. by lawful possession. Legal possession is acquired by you by owning a particular structure or location. Common ownership occurs through inheritance, common law possessions like deeds of land, mortgages on structures, etc.

In the context of the law of property, it can be clearly understood that personal property and immovable property differ. Immovable property is not attached to a structure and can be taken by force or by ownership through ancestry. On the other hand personal property is generally not physically attached to a structure but can be acquired legally by ownership through legal ownership. It can be transferred through inheritance, purchase or even mortgage.

Private ownership is also a form of private ownership and is distinguished from common ownership in a few ways. Firstly, unlike in common ownership where there is a shared ownership between a group of persons, private ownership is separated and private. Secondly, unlike in common ownership where the property rights include the right to use, rent, sell, use and enjoy public property for the benefit of all the members of the group, private ownership is limited to a specific use. Thirdly, unlike in common ownership where there is no fixed time limit for enjoyment, the rights to use and enjoy public property do not exist in private ownership. Lastly, unlike in common ownership where the property rights can be enforced through legal process, private property rights are protected by equitable and proprietary actions and judgments.

Property ownership is also based on different types of ownership. Two of the most prominent types are common ownership and private ownership. Common ownership is also known as deeded land ownership and is often times referred to as tenancy-based property systems. Common property systems in most countries are based on common ownership rights that allow joint ownership, tenancy, and tenancy with right of survivorship. Private property systems are more complex and often times last for generations with the right to choose among several different options that allow private ownership of properties.

Private property includes things such as residential real estate, exclusive domains, business domains, franchises, intellectual property, inventions, and infrastructure. Intellectual property can be protected in different ways in different jurisdictions. Private property also includes intangible personal property, trademarks, trade names, and domain names. Some jurisdictions also recognize international intellectual property laws. On the other hand, public property refers to the resources of the state such as roads, water and sewer systems, parks and natural resources, forests, and beaches. Public property is not as tightly controlled as private property and there is more room for abuse of the state’s resources.