Arkansas Law School 1L Study Guide for Property
Introduction to Property Law
Property law encompasses the set of legal rules that govern the rights and responsibilities of individuals with respect to tangible and intangible items. These rules determine how property is acquired, transferred, used, and protected. In Arkansas, as in other states, property law is a mix of state statutes, common law, and case precedent.
I. The Nature of Property
A. Definition of Property: Legal rights and interests that individuals can possess. Property can be real (land and buildings) or personal (all other types of possessions).
B. Types of Property: Real property includes land and fixtures, while personal property includes movable items and intangible rights.
II. Possession and Ownership
A. Possession: Physical control over a property with intent to control it.
B. Ownership: Legal title and rights to property, including the right to exclude others from it.
C. Rule of First Possession: The first person to take control of something with the intent to claim it as their own becomes its owner.
III. Estates in Land
A. Freehold Estates: Interests in land that are of indeterminate duration.
1. Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete form of ownership, potentially infinite in duration.
2. Life Estates: An interest in land that lasts for the life of a specific person.
B. Non-Freehold Estates: Interests in land that are for a fixed or determinable period.
1. Tenancy for Years: A leasehold interest for a specified period.
2. Periodic Tenancy: Leasehold interest that continues for successive periods until terminated.
IV. Concurrent Ownership
A. Tenancy in Common: Each owner has an undivided interest in the property and no right of survivorship.
B. Joint Tenancy: Each owner has an undivided interest with the right of survivorship.
C. Tenancy by the Entirety: Similar to joint tenancy, but only available to married couples.
V. Landlord-Tenant Law
A. Lease Agreements: Contracts outlining the terms of the landlord-tenant relationship.
B. Tenant Rights: Arkansas law provides tenants with certain rights, including habitability and non-discrimination.
C. Landlord Duties: Arkansas landlords must maintain premises and comply with health and safety codes.
VI. Transfers of Property
A. Deeds: Legal documents used to transfer real property.
1. Warranty Deed: Guarantees clear title to the property.
2. Quitclaim Deed: Transfers any interest the grantor may have without warranties.
B. Title: Legal term for ownership. Title searches and insurance protect against defects.
VII. Easements and Servitudes
A. Easements: The right to use another’s land for a specific purpose.
B. Creation of Easements: By express grant, implication, necessity, or prescription.
C. Covenants: Promises contained in deeds or land contracts affecting land use.
VIII. Nuisance Law
A. Public Nuisance: An unreasonable interference with a right common to the public.
B. Private Nuisance: A substantial and unreasonable interference with private use and enjoyment of land.
IX. Zoning and Land Use
A. Zoning Ordinances: Local laws that regulate land use and development.
B. Variances and Special Use Permits: Exceptions to zoning laws for individual properties.
X. Eminent Domain and Takings
A. Eminent Domain: The power of the government to take private property for public use with just compensation.
B. Regulatory Takings: Government regulation that deprives property of all economic use may require compensation.
Case Law Examples Using IRAC Format
- Case: Pierson v. Post (1805)
Issue: Does the pursuit of an unowned wild animal give rise to a property interest?
Rule: A property interest in wild animals is acquired by actual physical possession.
Analysis: Post was pursuing the fox, but Pierson captured it. The court held that mere pursuit was not enough to establish property rights without capture.
Conclusion: Pierson was entitled to the fox because he was the first to take possession of it.
Case: Arkansas Game & Fish Commission v. United States (2012)
Issue: Can government-induced flooding, temporary in duration, give rise to a takings claim under the Fifth Amendment?
Rule: Temporary flooding induced by the government can constitute a taking.
Analysis: The U.S. Supreme Court held that government-induced flooding of land can be a taking, even if the flooding is temporary, when it is the foreseeable result of government action and causes substantial damage.
Conclusion: The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission was entitled to pursue a takings claim for the temporary flooding of its land.
Case: Stambovsky v. Ackley (1991) – New York case often discussed in Property classes
Issue: Does a seller have to disclose to a buyer that a house is reputedly haunted?
Rule: A seller must disclose to a buyer any condition that materially affects the value of the property and that the buyer is unlikely to discover upon ordinary inspection.
Analysis: The court held that the reputation of the house as haunted affected its value and was not a condition a buyer could reasonably be expected to discover.
Conclusion: Ackley was required to disclose the property’s haunted reputation to Stambovsky.
This study guide provides a brief overview of key property law concepts and case law relevant to a 1L Arkansas law student. Students should further investigate Arkansas statutes, specific cases, and commentary for a more in-depth understanding of property law in preparation for their final exam.