Property Law – A Clever Introduction

Property is:

‘that which a person owns; the possession or possessions of a particular owner. 

Tangible Property is:

The physical property that you can touch. E.G. A house, car, handbag, computer.

Intangible Property is:

Property without a physical existence. Some intangible property might have a paper embodiment, (such as stocks, bonds, or certificates) but other intangible property does not (goodwill, intellectual property, reputation).

The 2 main classifications of property

1. Real Property

This refers to land and anything attached to the land, growing in it, or built on the land. Including buildings, roads, sewers, rivers, lakes, and fences.

It is best remembered as immovable property which is land and items fixed to land or a permanent structure such as a building.

A tree is classed as real property as it is a permanent structure built into or part of the land unless it is clearly stated that the tree does not come with the property and the owner will be removing the tree.

Fixtures and fittings

Fixtures and fittings are classed as real property if they are permanently attached to the land or buildings. They must be attached in a way that they are considered to be part of the main property and immovable.

For Example. When buying a house, a portable BBQ would not be considered a fixture or fitting or part of real property as it can easily be moved from the property without much effort or damage to the main property. A brick build BBQ would be classed as real property as it is a permanently fixed, immovable structure, and would take great effort to remove it.

Personal Property

This is anything other than real property that can be owned. Personal property is not fixed permanently in one location and is movable. It can be moved with general ease. It can be removed without leaving any damage and does not require any complex or involved (invasive) procedures.

E.g Furniture, fridge, money, pets, computers, etc.


These are also personal properties which are tangible moveable properties.

E.g. Antiques, jewellery, Art etc.

What are the two classifications of Chattels?

Wasting Chattels: For UK tax purposes, a wasting chattel is a chattel with a useful life not exceeding 50 years. Machinery is considered to have a predictable life of less than 50 years. Example: Clocks, trains, boats etc are all classed as machinery and are considered to be Wasting Chattels’.

Non-wasting Chattels: This is any tangible movable property with an expected life of more than 50 years. E.g. Antiques, fine art, jewellery.

Can people be property?

Property can be moved, discarded, or demolished and is easily replaced. People are not property. A person cannot be treated in any of these ways and cannot be owned by anyone.

What is ownership?

Ownership is having a legal title to property with an exclusive legal right to its possession. It is ‘the full and complete right of dominion over property. Collins Dictionary of Law

Co-ownership occurs when more than one person has a legal interest in the same property.

Ownership outlines a set of legal rights over real or personal property.

When you buy a property, certain rights related to the property are automatically conferred [passed] to you. The basic rights of a homeowner might pertain to the right of admission, right to control, exclusion and possession, among others.

Ownership is, therefore, a set of legal rights associated with the property.

Who owns property?

The person with ‘Title’ to the property is the legally recognized owner of that property. They are free to do what they want with the property (depending on legal rules and limitations that may be applied to the property) They may transfer the ‘title’ of the property to another person.

If an owner has borrowed money to purchase the property. (Mortgage, hire purchase agreements, etc) then they may have partial rights to the property. The remaining rights are held by the lender.

Mislaid property

This is property that the owner has put in a specific place but has forgotten to take with them or they may not be able to remember exactly where they put it.

For example:

  • You put your car keys down somewhere and you cannot remember where.
  • You put your coat on the rack above your seat on the train and left without it.

Lost property

This is where the owner of the property cannot find it and has no idea where it is.

For example – You dropped your wallet and you do not know where it is.

Note: If anyone finds lost property they must return it to the owner or another person entitled to receive it, such as an appointed agent, or the police.

Abandoned property

This is where the owner has left the property and has no intention of having it back. They have given up their rights of ownership.

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Posted in Business Law, Sale of goods.