Delaware Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Delaware Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property Rights

  • Concept of Property
    • Definition: Legally protected claims to resources, such as land or personal property.
    • Types: Real property (land and attachments) vs. personal property (movable items).
  • Property Rights
    • Bundle of rights: Right to possess, right to exclude, right to use, and right to transfer.
    • Theories of Property Rights: First Possession, Labor Theory, Utilitarianism, and Personhood Theory.

II. Possession and Ownership

  • Acquisition by Capture
    • Rule of Capture: The first person to take possession of a previously unowned thing owns it.
    • Case: Pierson v. Post (1805) – Dispute over the hunting and capture of a fox.
    • Issue: Who owns the fox, the hunter who pursued it or the one who captured it?
    • Rule: Capture, not pursuit, grants property rights.
    • Application: Pierson captured the fox, thus he acquired ownership.
    • Conclusion: Pierson was entitled to the fox.
  • Found Property
    • Lost: Owner unintentionally parts with it.
    • Mislaid: Owner intentionally places it somewhere and forgets.
    • Abandoned: Owner intends to relinquish ownership.
    • Treasure trove: Coins or currency concealed by the owner.

III. Estates in Land

  • Freehold Estates
    • Fee Simple Absolute: Most complete ownership, infinite duration.
    • Life Estate: Ownership for the life of an individual.
    • Fee Tail: Inheritable only by lineal descendants.
  • Future Interests
    • Reversion: Left in grantor.
    • Remainder: Passes to a third party.
    • Executory Interest: Takes effect after a specified condition.
  • Concurrent Estates
    • Joint Tenancy: Right of survivorship.
    • Tenancy in Common: No survivorship rights.
    • Tenancy by the Entirety: Available only to married couples in some states, including Delaware.

IV. Land Use and Regulation

  • Easements
    • Definition: A nonpossessory right to use another’s land.
    • Creation: Express, implied, by necessity, or prescription.
    • Types: Affirmative (right to do something) and negative (prevent something).
  • Covenants
    • Real Covenant: A written promise to do or not do something on one’s property.
    • Equitable Servitudes: Implied covenants enforceable in equity.
  • Zoning
    • Municipal regulations dividing land into zones for different uses.
    • Variance: Permission to use land in a way prohibited by zoning.
    • Case: Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926) – Land use regulation by zoning.
    • Issue: Do zoning laws violate the 14th Amendment?
    • Rule: Zoning laws are permissible if they promote health, safety, morals, or general welfare.
    • Application: Euclid’s zoning regulations were held to be valid.
    • Conclusion: Zoning laws were upheld.

V. Landlord-Tenant Law

  • Leasehold Estates
    • Types: Term of years, periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, tenancy at sufferance.
  • Tenant’s Rights and Landlord’s Duties
    • Implied warranty of habitability: Residential leases must be livable.
    • Quiet enjoyment: Tenant’s right to use the property without interference.
  • Eviction Process
    • Legal grounds for eviction.
    • Notice and opportunity to cure.
    • Summary proceedings.

VI. Real Property Transactions

  • Contract of Sale
    • Elements: Offer, acceptance, consideration, and legal purpose.
    • Statute of Frauds: Real estate contracts must be in writing.
    • Equitable conversion: Buyer assumes risk after contract is signed.
  • Deeds
    • Types: General warranty, special warranty, and quitclaim.
    • Recording Statutes: Delaware follows race-notice statute – the first to record after taking without notice prevails.
  • Mortgages
    • Types: Conventional, FHA, VA, adjustable-rate.
    • Foreclosure: Judicial vs. nonjudicial.

VII. Nuisance and Torts Related to Land

  • Private Nuisance
    • Definition: Unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of land.
    • Elements: Intentional, negligent or reckless conduct, substantial interference, unreasonable.
    • Remedies: Damages, injunction.
  • Public Nuisance
    • Affects the community or public at large.
    • Individuals can only sue if they suffer unique damage not suffered by the public in general.
  • Trespass
    • Unauthorized entry onto another’s land.
    • Remedy is usually damages or injunctive relief.

VIII. Delaware-Specific Property Laws and Considerations

  • Delaware Uniform Common Interest Ownership Act (DUCIOA)
    • Governs the formation, management, and termination of common interest communities.
  • Delaware Residential Landlord-Tenant Code
    • Specific rules and regulations for residential leases in Delaware.
    • Security deposit, notice periods, and other tenant protections.
  • Delaware Adverse Possession Laws
    • Time period for adverse possession claims.
    • Elements: Actual possession, hostile, open and notorious, exclusive, and continuous.

IX. Conclusion

Studying property law involves understanding a wide range of legal concepts concerning the rights and duties related to land and personal items. Delaware has specific statutes and case laws that govern real property within its jurisdiction. As a 1L law student, it is essential to grasp these foundational topics, including property acquisition, estates in land, land use and regulation, landlord-tenant law, real property transactions, nuisance, torts related to land, and Delaware-specific property rules. Mastering these areas will prepare you for your final semester exam and provide a robust base for future legal practice in the real property sector.

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