California Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

California Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property

Property law concerns the rights and interests in tangible and intangible items. Fundamental to the concept of property is the notion of ownership, which includes the rights to possess, use, exclude others from, and dispose of the property.

II. Possession and Ownership

A. First in Time Rule
– The principle that the first person to take possession of a previously unowned object becomes its owner.

B. Finders Keepers
– Rule of capture: The first person to capture a resource owns it.
– Bailments: When property is delivered to someone who is to return it to the owner, the person receiving it is a bailee with a duty to care for the property.

C. Lost, Mislaid, and Abandoned Property
– Lost property: Unintentionally left, finder has rights against all but true owner.
– Mislaid property: Intentionally placed somewhere then forgotten, owner of premises has superior rights.
– Abandoned property: Owner has relinquished all rights, finder can claim ownership.

III. Estates in Land

A. Fee Simple
– The largest, most complete estate one can have in land, potentially eternal in duration.

B. Life Estate
– An interest in land that lasts for the life of a specific person.

C. Leasehold Estates
– Tenancy for a fixed period (term of years), periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.

D. Future Interests
– Interests in property that will become possessory upon the expiration of a current possessory estate (e.g., reversion, remainder).
– Rule Against Perpetuities (RAP): Future interests must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest.

IV. Concurrent Ownership

A. Joint Tenancy
– Two or more owners have equal rights to the whole property, with a right of survivorship.

B. Tenancy in Common
– Two or more owners have individual shares of a property which may be unequal and no right of survivorship.

C. Tenancy by the Entirety
– Similar to joint tenancy but only available to married couples.

D. Partition
– The division of property held by co-owners into separate portions representing the proportionate interests of the owners.

V. Landlord-Tenant Law

A. Lease Agreements
– Contractual terms, implied warranty of habitability, and quiet enjoyment.

B. Tenant Rights and Duties
– Rights to privacy, safety, and habitability; duty to pay rent and not commit waste.

C. Landlord Rights and Duties
– Right to rent, duty to maintain premises, and right to evict for cause.

D. Eviction Process
– Legal procedures that must be followed for a lawful eviction.

E. Rent Control
– California-specific laws that limit the amount landlords can charge for rent and reasons for terminating tenancies.

VI. Land Use

A. Zoning
– Local ordinances that divide a city or county into different areas and prescribe use for which properties within each area can be used.

B. Eminent Domain
– The power of the government to take private property for public use with just compensation.

C. Adverse Possession
– Acquiring title to property through continuous, exclusive, hostile, open and notorious, and actual possession for a statutory period.

D. Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs)
– Private agreements that restrict the use of real property, commonly enforced through homeowners’ associations.

VII. Real Property Sales and Transfers

A. The Sales Contract
– Statute of Frauds: Sales of real property must be evidenced by a written agreement.

B. Marketable Title
– Title free from reasonable doubt that a court will enforce against an adverse claimant.

C. Title Assurance
– Public records, title insurance, and various forms of deeds (warranty deed, grant deed, quitclaim deed).

D. Recording Systems
– Race, notice, and race-notice statutes; California follows a race-notice statute.

VIII. Mortgages and Financing

A. Types of Security Interests
– Mortgages, deeds of trust, and land sales contracts.

B. Foreclosure
– The process by which a lender can sell property used as collateral after the borrower fails to meet the obligation of the mortgage contract.

C. Right of Redemption
– The right of a property owner to redeem or buy back the property after a foreclosure sale.

D. Anti-Deficiency Laws
– California-specific laws that limit the ability of lenders to seek deficiency judgments following foreclosure.

IX. Easements and Servitudes

A. Easements
– A non-possessory right to use the land of another.

B. Creation of Easements
– Express grant or reservation, implication, necessity, or prescription.

C. Termination of Easements
– Release, abandonment, merger of title, or expiration.

D. Servitudes
– Legal obligations to do or not do something with respect to land (e.g., real covenants, equitable servitudes).

X. Case Law

  • Pierson v. Post (1805)
    • Issue: The determination of possession in the case of wild animals.
    • Rule: Established that mere pursuit of a wild animal does not confer possession.
    • Analysis: Post pursued the fox, but Pierson was the one to kill and capture it.
    • Conclusion: Pierson had obtained possession, as he had actual control over the animal.
  • Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)
    • Issue: Whether a person retains property rights to his cells after they have been removed from his body.
    • Rule: No continued ownership rights in excised cells.
    • Analysis: Moore sued for conversion after his cells were developed into a profitable cell line.
    • Conclusion: The court held that Moore had no property rights to the cell line derived from his cells.
  • Van Valkenburgh v. Lutz (1952)
    • Issue: Whether the Lutzes acquired title by adverse possession.
    • Rule: For adverse possession, possession must be actual, open and notorious, exclusive, hostile, and continuous for the statutory period.
    • Analysis: The court found that the Lutzes did not meet the requirements for adverse possession as their use of the land was not sufficiently notorious.
    • Conclusion: The Lutzes did not acquire title to the property.

This study guide highlights core concepts and cases in California property law that are essential for a 1L property class. Students should further explore these concepts and cases, understanding how they interconnect and apply to various factual scenarios, especially as they relate to California-specific property rules and regulations.

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