Georgia Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Georgia Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property Law
A. Definitions
1. Property: legally protected claims to resources, such as land, personal items, intellectual property, etc.
2. Real Property: land and interests in land.
3. Personal Property: all property that is not real property.
B. Categories of property
1. Tangible property: physical objects, like books, cars, or land.
2. Intangible property: non-physical assets, such as stocks, bonds, and intellectual property.

II. Possession and Ownership
A. Acquisition by Capture
1. Rule of Capture: The first person to capture a resource becomes its owner.
2. Pierson v. Post (1805): Post, while hunting a fox, was overtaken by Pierson who killed and captured it. Held: The one who mortally wounds or captures the animal secures ownership (IRAC):
– Issue: Does pursuit alone establish a right to property in wild animals?
– Rule: Pursuit alone does not establish property rights in wild animals; actual capture is required.
– Application: Post’s pursuit did not confer ownership; Pierson was entitled to the fox as he captured it.
– Conclusion: Pierson was the rightful owner of the fox.
B. Acquisition by Find
1. Finder’s title: A finder of lost property has rights superior to everyone except the true owner.
2. Armory v. Delamirie (1722): A chimney sweep found a jewel and took it to a goldsmith for appraisal; the goldsmith’s apprentice withheld it. Held: The finder has a better title to the jewel than anyone except the rightful owner.
C. Acquisition by Adverse Possession
1. Adverse possession: Acquiring title to property by possession for a certain statutory period under certain conditions.
2. Georgia’s statute: In Georgia, the statutory period for adverse possession is 20 years for land (O.C.G.A. § 44-5-161).
3. Requirements: Actual possession, open and notorious, continuous, exclusive, and hostile.
4. Howard v. Kunto (1970): Summer home buyers mistakenly occupied each other’s lots due to a surveying error. Held: Continuous possession can be tacked between successive owners if the successive occupants are in privity.

III. Estates in Land
A. Present Estates
1. Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete form of ownership with potentially infinite duration.
2. Life Estate: Ownership for the duration of a person’s life.
– Georgia Life Estate (O.C.G.A. § 44-6-60): In Georgia, the life tenant is entitled to all rights of the property during their life but must not waste the estate’s future interest.
3. Fee Tail: An estate that passes directly to one’s heirs, abolished in most U.S. jurisdictions, including Georgia.
B. Future Interests
1. Reversion: A future interest that returns to the grantor after a temporary estate ends.
2. Remainder: A future interest created in a transferee which is capable of becoming possessory upon the expiration of a prior possessory estate.
3. Executory interest: A future interest in a third party that cuts short another’s interest.

IV. Concurrent Ownership
A. Joint Tenancy
1. Right of Survivorship: When one joint tenant dies, their interest automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants.
2. Four Unities: Time, Title, Interest, Possession.
B. Tenancy in Common
1. No right of survivorship; each tenant owns an individual part and can devise it upon death.
C. Tenancy by the Entirety
1. Similar to joint tenancy, but only available to married couples in some states (not recognized in Georgia).

V. Landlord-Tenant Law
A. Leasehold Estates
1. Term of Years: A lease for a fixed period.
2. Periodic Tenancy: A lease that continues for successive periods until terminated by notice.
3. Tenancy at Will: A lease that may be terminated by either party at any time.
4. Tenancy at Sufferance: When a tenant remains after their right to do so has terminated.
B. Landlord Duties and Tenant Rights
1. Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: The tenant’s right to use the property without interference.
2. Implied Warranty of Habitability: Landlords must maintain basic living standards.
3. Georgia Security Deposit Law (O.C.G.A. § 44-7-30): Regulates the handling of tenants’ security deposits.

VI. Governmental Limits on Property Rights
A. Eminent Domain
1. Takings Clause: The government may take private property for public use with just compensation.
2. Kelo v. City of New London (2005): Expanded the interpretation of “public use” to include economic development plans.
B. Zoning
1. Police power: The government’s power to regulate property to protect public health, safety, morals, and welfare.
2. Euclidean zoning: Division of a city into districts with specific types of permitted land uses.
C. Environmental Regulations
1. Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, and other federal and state environmental regulations can affect property use.

VII. Real Property Transactions
A. Contracts for the Sale of Land
1. Statute of Frauds: Requires certain contracts, including those for the sale of land, to be in writing to be enforceable.
2. Equitable Conversion: Once a contract is signed, the buyer holds equitable title to the property.
B. Deeds
1. General Warranty Deed: Offers the greatest protection against defects in title.
2. Special Warranty Deed: Guarantees only against the grantor’s acts.
3. Quitclaim Deed: Transfers only the interest the grantor has, if any, with no warranties.
C. Recording Statutes
1. Race Statute: The first to record the deed against a piece of property holds the title.
2. Notice Statute: Protects subsequent purchasers who purchase in good faith without notice of prior claims.
3. Race-Notice Statute: A subsequent bona fide purchaser must both lack notice of prior claims and record first.

VIII. Easements, Covenants, and Servitudes
A. Easements
1. Affirmative Easements: Grant the right to use another’s land.
2. Negative Easements: Allow the holder to prevent certain uses of the servient land.
3. Creation: By express agreement, implication, necessity, or prescription.
B. Real Covenants
1. A covenant that runs with the land, imposing obligations or conferring benefits upon the landowner.
2. Requirements: Writing, intent, notice, and privity.
C. Equitable Servitudes
1. Similar to covenants but enforced in equity and may not require privity.

IX. Conclusion
This study guide covers the key concepts, case law, and statutes relevant to Georgia property law that typically form part of a 1L property law curriculum. Make sure to supplement this guide with class notes, statutory readings, and case briefs to adequately prepare for your final semester exam.

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