Laws on Property (Property Rights)

Introduction to Laws on Property UK

Basics of the Land Law

Whether you are buying your first home, or already a homeowner you must know the laws on property and your rights in and on the land, and obligations associated with it. These rights and obligations are proprietary and often referred to as proprietary rights.

Under Property Law UK, There are three ways in which rights in the laws on property can differ:

  • Different strengths of property rights
  • Different types of property rights
  • Different sources of property rights

Multiple people may have a claim over a single piece of land, and the land law typically works by deciding/adjudicating which person has the strongest right. Various People can have various proprietary interests in the same piece of land.  A classic example of a scenario where different people have rights in the same property is given below;


James owns a detached house with a large garden. In return for payment, James signs a deed/agreement granting her neighbor Sophie a right of way over part of his garden, such that Sophie has a shortcut to the road adjoining the other side of Janet’s garden.

Rights of Owner

The owner of land has three main legal rights over his/her property or characteristics which make him/her the owner of the land;

  1. The right to claim in respect of interference with what is owned is also referred to as the right to “Title”
  2. The right to use and enjoy the property without being in breach of the rights of others.
  3. The ability to dispose of the thing, by way of sale or gift or by a will on death, to pass the ownership rights to another.


Land includes the land of any tenure, and mines and mineral, building or any parts of buildings and other corporeal hereditaments, including rent and other incorporeal hereditaments, easement, right, privilege or benefit in, over or derived from the land.

Land includes;

  • Buildings and other structures
  • Land covered with water and
  • Mines and minerals, whether or not held with the surface LPA 1925 s 132 (1).

The person who owns the land owns everything extending over or under the land and whatever is attached to the ground becomes a part of the land.

Rights in the land

Under the Laws on Property UK, There are two types of rights in the land;

  1. Estates in the land
  2. Interests in the land

An estate in land is referred to as the ownership of the land for a period of time. There are two types of estates in the land;

  • Freehold Estate
  • Leasehold Estate

Under freehold, the owner of the land owns the land. His ownership may last forever. The owner is free to do whatever he likes with his land. Whereas a lease or a leasehold land provides ownership for a certain time, for example, 10 years. After this time, the land will revert to the freehold owner of the land and the leaseholder will have no further rights to the land.

laws on property

Interests in Land

Third parties may have some rights over the land, but they are fundamentally different from the ownership rights. These interests may include;

  • An Easement (Link Easements).
  • Restrictive covenant (Link Covenant).
  • Mortgage (Link Mortgage).
Personal Rights

Personal rights are enforceable against a person.

Proprietary Rights

Proprietary Rights are enforceable against the owner of the property for example estates, easements, restrictive covenants, mortgages.

Physical Extent of land

The extent of land ( the threshold that determines which objects, in or on the land, qualify as part of the land) is important for various reasons.

  • The land is made up of rights capable of passing to heirs by way of inheritance (Hereditaments)
  • Some are made up of physical land & its’ attachments (corporeal)
  • Some are intangible rights (incorporeal) which someone may have over another’s land, such as an easement e.g. a right of way or a right of light.
  • Fixtures: whatever is affixed to the soil belongs to the soil so a prospective buyer must be aware when buying a property that whatever is fixed on the land will be part of the land and part of the estate.
  • Fittings: on the other hand, are not part of the land as they are not affixed to the land, for example, a painting hanging on the wall is a fitting and will not be the property of new owner automatically.
  • Whether what is affixed to land is a fixture or fitting is decided in light of the degree of annexation and purpose of annexation.
  • An object which has been firmly attached to the land is a fixture, while one which is merely resting on its weight is not.
  • Where the object has been fixed for more convenient use of the land or building rather than for the enjoyment of the thing itself will likely be treated as a fixture.
  • The things which are intended to become part of the land are likely to be treated as fixtures.
  • The things which are intended to make a permanent improvement to the land (or building), are also likely to be treated as a fixture and part of the land.
  • The things which are attached simply for their best use as chattels will likely be treated as fittings and they are not part of the land.
  • All fixtures on mortgaged land are included in the mortgage, and the mortgagor may not be allowed to remove them during the currency of the mortgage, even if they are affixed sometimes after the mortgage.
  • If something is fitting it can be removed by the seller of land, whereas if it is a fixture it will be part and parcel of the land and must pass to the purchaser of the land.

Proprietary and Personal Rights

  • Personal rights are those which are enforceable against a specific person.
  • Proprietary rights are the rights in the property law and are therefore enforceable against anyone who owns the property.
  • Proprietary Rights are enforceable against the new owner of the property.
  • Proprietary rights are transferable and can be sold to another person. Whereas personal rights are against a specific person and cannot be transferred or enforced against another person.

Proprietary Right

James granted a right of way to his neighbor Martha. James has now sold his property. However, Martha can still enforce the right of way on the new owner as the right of way is a proprietary right.

Personal Right

James also promised and allowed Martha to play tennis on his lawn, however, upon sale, Martha cannot force the right to play tennis against the new owner as the permission given was a personal right.

Treasure Troves

Rules on Treasure Troves

Under Treasure Act 1996

  • Treasure trove belongs to the Crown alone.
  • Had to be gold or silver; (changed please refer to legislation below).
  • Must have been deliberately hidden.
  • The real owner is unknown or untraced.
Treasure Act 1996

Section (1) Treasure is—

(a) Any object at least 300 years old when found which—

      (i) Is not a coin but has metallic content of which at least 10 percent by weight is precious metal;

      (ii) When found, is one of at least two coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time and have that percentage of precious metal; or

       (iii) When found, is one of at least ten coins in the same find which are at least 300 years old at that time;

(b)  Any object at least 200 years old when found which belongs to a class designated under section 2(1);

(c) Any object which would have been a treasure trove if found before the commencement of section 4;

(d) Any object which, when found, is part of the same find as—

       (i)  An object within paragraph (a), (b), or (c) found at the same time or earlier; or

       (ii)  An object found earlier which would be within paragraph (a) or (b) if it had been found at the same time.

(2)  Treasure does not include objects which are—

(a) Unworked natural objects, or

(b) Minerals as extracted from a natural deposit, or which belong to a class designated under section 2(2)

If the property found is not a treasure trove, it is considered as the property of the owner of the land/soil and the finder has no claim of ownership.

Ownership of treasure which is found in a land

When the treasure is found, it vests, subject to prior interests and rights—

(a) In the franchisee, if there is one;( to the rightful owner of the treasure, which is very unlikely as the treasure trove may be lying under the land for many centuries and it will normally go to the Crown).

(b) Otherwise, in the Crown.


The reward may be payable to—

  1. The finder or any other person involved in the find.
  2. The occupier of the land at the time of the find.

Mineral Deposits under the land

The landowner has rights to mineral deposits, except gold, silver, coal, oil, and natural gas.

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While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information provided in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. Each legal case and issue may have unique facts and circumstances, as a result legallex does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information provided. For further help and guidance, you can always rely on and seek advice from our experienced lawyers.

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