Hawaii Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Hawaii Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property Law
A. Definition of Property
1. Property is a legal right to possess, use, and dispose of things.
2. Types of Property: Real Property (land and interests in land) and Personal Property (all other property).
B. Theories of Property
1. First Possession: Ownership claimed by the first to possess unowned resources.
2. Labor Theory: Ownership justified by the labor one invests in the property.
3. Utilitarian: Property rights create incentives for the efficient use of resources.
4. Personhood Theory: Property is essential to human well-being and development.

II. Real Property: Land and Interests in Land
A. Land Ownership and Rights
1. Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete ownership in land, potentially infinite in duration.
2. Life Estates: Ownership for the duration of a person’s life.
3. Leasehold Estates: A temporary right to use and occupy land.

B. Concurrent Ownership
1. Tenancy in Common: Each owner has an undivided, fractional interest in the property.
2. Joint Tenancy: Each owner has an equal, undivided interest with right of survivorship.
3. Tenancy by the Entirety: Available only to married couples with right of survivorship and other protections.

C. Land Use Control
1. Easements: The right to use another’s land for a specific purpose.
2. Covenants: Agreements that impose restrictions or obligations concerning the use of land.
3. Zoning: Government regulation of land use according to specified categories.

III. Acquiring Property Rights
A. Adverse Possession
1. Elements: Actual possession, open and notorious, exclusive, continuous, and adverse/hostile.
2. Hawaii-specific: Under Hawaii law (HRS § 657-31.5), the period for adverse possession is 20 years.

B. Finding Lost Property
1. Lost: Property is lost if it is unintentionally parted with.
2. Mislaid: Property is mislaid if it is intentionally placed somewhere but then forgotten.
3. Abandoned: Property is abandoned if it is intentionally relinquished by the owner.

C. Gifts
1. Inter Vivos Gifts: A gift made during the giver’s lifetime, requiring intent, delivery, and acceptance.
2. Testamentary Gifts: A gift made as part of a will, taking effect upon the donor’s death.

IV. Transfer and Recording of Real Property
A. Deeds
1. Types: Warranty, Special Warranty, and Quitclaim.
2. Requirements: Legal capacity, description of land, and delivery with intent to transfer.

B. Recording Statutes
1. Race Statute: First to record the deed prevails, regardless of notice.
2. Notice Statute: A subsequent bona fide purchaser without notice prevails over a prior unrecorded interest.
3. Race-Notice Statute: A subsequent bona fide purchaser without notice who records first prevails.
4. Hawaii-specific: Hawaii follows a modified notice statute approach (HRS § 502-83).

C. Title Assurance
1. Abstract and Opinion
2. Title Insurance
3. Torrens System: A registration system that provides a certificate of title indicating ownership.

V. Landlord-Tenant Law
A. Lease Agreements
1. Elements: Identification of parties, description of premises, term and rent, and signature.
2. Types of Tenancies: Tenancy for Years, Periodic Tenancy, Tenancy at Will, and Tenancy at Sufferance.
B. Tenant Rights and Duties
1. Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment
2. Implied Warranty of Habitability
3. Duty to Pay Rent
C. Landlord Rights and Duties
1. Right to Receive Rent
2. Duty to Maintain Premises
3. Eviction Procedures

VI. Case Law
A. Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823): Establishing the Doctrine of Discovery, which held that European sovereigns—and their successors, the United States—had property rights in land by virtue of discovery and colonization, to the exclusion of Native American tribes.
– Issue: Whether Native Americans had the right to convey land directly to private individuals.
– Rule: The title to lands lay with the government; private individuals could not obtain title from Native Americans.
– Analysis: The court held that the principle of discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it.
– Conclusion: The plaintiffs did not have valid title to the land because they obtained it from Native Americans.

B. Pierson v. Post (1805): A famous case regarding the acquisition of property by first possession, specifically the hunting of a wild fox.
– Issue: Whether Post, who was in pursuit of the fox, had property rights over it, or whether Pierson, who captured and killed the fox, had the rights.
– Rule: A wild animal must be captured or mortally wounded to establish property rights.
– Analysis: The court decided that mere pursuit was not enough to establish ownership.
– Conclusion: Pierson, who actually captured the fox, was entitled to it.

C. Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990): A landmark case regarding property rights in one’s own body and cells.
– Issue: Whether Moore had property rights over his cells that were developed into a lucrative cell line without his knowledge.
– Rule: Individuals do not have property rights over their cells once removed from their body.
– Analysis: The court found no precedent supporting ownership rights in excised cells.
– Conclusion: Moore did not have property rights in the cell line developed from his cells.

VII. Conclusion
Property law is a complex and multifaceted field that encompasses various forms of ownership, land use, acquisition, and transfer of property. Understanding the underlying principles, statutory provisions, and case law is critical for any law student. This guide provides a foundational overview, but students should consult their lecture notes, reading materials, and relevant Hawaii statutes for a comprehensive understanding of property law as it applies in Hawaii.

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