Illinois Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Illinois Law School 1L Study Guide: Property

I. Introduction to Property Rights

  • Concept of Property: Property encompasses both tangible and intangible assets that individuals or entities can own, control, and transfer.
  • Types of Property: Real property pertains to land and things attached to land, while personal property refers to all other types of property.
  • Ownership and Possession: Ownership is the legal right to possess, use, and dispose of property. Possession is the actual control over the property.

II. Possession and Acquisition of Property

  • Finders Law: Rights of finders versus owners, which often involve the principles of “finders, keepers” and “first in time, first in right”.
    • Case: Armory v. Delamirie (1722) – A chimney sweep’s boy found a jewel and took it to a goldsmith for appraisal. The goldsmith’s apprentice removed the stones and claimed he lost them. The boy was entitled to the jewel as the finder against all but the rightful owner.
    • Case: Hannah v. Peel (1945) – A brooch was found in a house not occupied by the owner. The finder was entitled to possession as the owner had never been in possession of the brooch.
  • Adverse Possession: Acquiring title to property through open and notorious possession for a statutory period.
    • Illinois Specific: In Illinois, the statutory period for adverse possession is 20 years. The possessor must pay property taxes for at least 7 years under the Illinois Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/).
    • Case: Howard v. Kunto (1970) – Addresses the issue of “tacking” successive periods of adverse possession to satisfy the statutory period.

III. Estates in Land

  • Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete interest in land that is inheritable.
  • Life Estate: An interest in land that lasts for the lifetime of a specified individual.
  • Future Interests: Interests that will become possessory in the future, such as reversion and remainder.
    • Illinois Specific: The Rule Against Perpetuities applies in Illinois, which limits the duration of future interests.
    • Case: Symphony Space, Inc. v. Pergola Properties, Inc. (1990) – Future interests must vest, if at all, within 21 years after the death of a life in being at the time of the creation of the interest.

IV. Concurrent Ownership

  • Joint Tenancy: Ownership by two or more persons who have equal rights in the use and enjoyment of the property and the right of survivorship.
  • Tenancy in Common: Ownership by two or more persons with no rights of survivorship.
  • Tenancy by the Entirety: A form of joint tenancy but only available to married couples with additional protections against creditors.
    • Illinois Specific: Tenancy by the entirety is recognized in Illinois (765 ILCS 1005/1c).

V. Landlord-Tenant Law

  • Leasehold Estates: Includes estate for years, periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.
  • Landlord’s Duties: Include the duty to deliver possession and the implied warranty of habitability.
  • Tenant’s Duties: Include the duty to pay rent and the duty not to commit waste.
    • Illinois Specific: The Illinois Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (765 ILCS 705/) governs many aspects of landlord-tenant relations.
    • Case: Hilder v. St. Peter (1988) – Established that a landlord has a duty to disclose latent defects of which they are aware.

VI. Real Property Transactions

  • Contract of Sale: Includes terms, contingencies, and disclosure requirements.
  • Deed: The document that transfers title to real property, which must be in writing and satisfy the Statute of Frauds.
  • Closing: The process of finalizing the real estate transaction, involving the settlement of accounts and transfer of the deed.
    • Illinois Specific: Illinois follows the “title theory” which means that a mortgage transfers legal title to the lender until the mortgage is paid off.

VII. Recording Statutes

  • Race Statute: The first to record the deed wins, regardless of notice.
  • Notice Statute: A subsequent bona fide purchaser without notice of prior claims wins.
  • Race-Notice Statute: A subsequent bona fide purchaser must both record first and have no notice of prior claims.
    • Illinois Specific: Illinois is a notice state (765 ILCS 5/30).

VIII. Land Use Regulation

  • Zoning: Local governments divide land into districts and prescribe the allowable uses in each district.
  • Eminent Domain: The government’s right to take private property for public use, with just compensation.
    • Illinois Specific: Condemnation proceedings are governed by the Illinois Eminent Domain Act (735 ILCS 30/).

IX. Servitudes

  • Easements: The right to use another’s land for a specific purpose.
  • Covenants: Promises written into deeds that run with the land.
  • Equitable Servitudes: Covenants that equity will enforce against successors.

The study of property law in Illinois requires an understanding of both general property principles and specific state statutes and cases. The key to excelling in a property law final exam is to master these concepts, understand how to apply case law to fact patterns, and be aware of the nuances of Illinois law. It is crucial to practice applying these principles through hypotheticals and to review past examinations to prepare adequately.

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