Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Indiana Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Introduction to Property Law

Concept Summary: Property law deals with the legal framework surrounding the ownership, use, and transfer of property. It covers various forms of ownership, possession, and rights associated with real and personal property.

I. Possession and Ownership

a. Acquisition of Property

  • Finders Law: First possession theory typically applies; the first person to take control of an item with the intent to claim ownership acquires property rights in that item.
  • Capture: Acquisition of property rights through capturing or killing wild animals (Pierson v. Post).

Case Law: Pierson v. Post – Post, while hunting, was pursuing a fox. Pierson killed and captured the fox. The court held that mere pursuit was not enough for possession; one must capture the animal.

b. Adverse Possession

  • Concept Summary: Adverse possession allows a trespasser to gain legal title to land after meeting certain requirements over a specific period.
  • Indiana Law: In Indiana, the statutory period for adverse possession is 10 years (Ind. Code § 32-21-7-1).
  • Requirements: Actual possession, open and notorious, exclusive, hostile, continuous for the statutory period.

c. Gifts

  • Concept Summary: A gift is a voluntary transfer of property without consideration. Three elements: donative intent, delivery, and acceptance.
  • Types of Gifts: Inter vivos (between living persons) and causa mortis (in contemplation of imminent death).

II. Estates in Land and Future Interests

a. Freehold Estates

  • Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete form of ownership with potentially infinite duration.
  • Life Estate: Ownership for the duration of someone’s life. Upon their death, the property either reverts to the grantor or to a third party (remainder).

b. Leasehold Estates

  • Concept Summary: Leasehold estates involve a tenant’s right to occupy land or structures for a certain period.
  • Types: Tenancy for years, periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.

c. Future Interests

  • Reversion: A future interest that returns to the grantor after a temporary estate ends.
  • Remainder: A future interest in a third party that becomes possessory after a life estate or term of years ends, without returning to the grantor first.
  • Rule Against Perpetuities: A future interest must vest, if at all, no later than 21 years after some life in being at the creation of the interest.

III. Land Use

a. Easements

  • Concept Summary: An easement is a non-possessory right to use the land of another.
  • Types: Appurtenant (benefits a particular piece of land) and in gross (benefits an individual or entity).
  • Creation: Express grant, reservation, implication, necessity, or prescription.

b. Covenants and Servitudes

  • Real Covenants: Promises concerning the use of land that bind and benefit successive owners.
  • Equitable Servitudes: Similar to real covenants but enforced in equity through injunctions.

c. Nuisance

  • Concept Summary: A nuisance is an unreasonable interference with another’s use or enjoyment of property.
  • Types: Public (affects the community) and private (affects an individual’s enjoyment).

IV. Landlord-Tenant Law

a. Lease Agreements

  • Concept Summary: Contractual arrangements between landlords and tenants that outline terms and conditions of tenancy.
  • Indiana Specific Law: Landlords must provide habitable premises and make necessary repairs (Ind. Code § 32-31-8-5).

b. Tenant’s Rights and Duties

  • Concept Summary: Tenants have rights to habitability, quiet enjoyment, and privacy. They have the duty to pay rent and not commit waste.

c. Landlord’s Rights and Duties

  • Concept Summary: Landlords have the right to collect rent, inspect the property, and evict for cause. They have the duty to maintain habitability and comply with health and safety codes.

V. Sales of Land

a. Contracts for the Sale of Land

  • Statute of Frauds: In Indiana, contracts for the sale of land must be in writing to be enforceable (Ind. Code § 32-21-1-1).

b. Deeds

  • Types of Deeds: General warranty deed, special warranty deed, and quitclaim deed.
  • Delivery and Acceptance: Deeds must be delivered to and accepted by the grantee to be effective.

c. Closing and Title

  • Concept Summary: Closing is the process where the sale is completed, and title is transferred from seller to buyer. Marketable title free from reasonable doubt is often required.

VI. Real Property Financing

a. Mortgages

  • Concept Summary: A mortgage is a security interest in land provided by the borrower to the lender as collateral for a loan.
  • Foreclosure: Legal process where the lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from the borrower who has stopped making payments.

b. Deeds of Trust and Land Contracts

  • Concept Summary: Alternative financing mechanisms to mortgages. Deeds of trust involve a third-party trustee, while land contracts involve payments over time before title transfer.

VII. Regulatory Takings

a. Eminent Domain

  • Concept Summary: The power of the government to take private property for public use, with just compensation (5th Amendment).
  • Indiana Law: Indiana’s Constitution also requires just compensation for takings (Art. 1, Sec. 21).

b. Regulatory Takings

  • Concept Summary: When government regulation of private property goes so far as to effectively act as a taking, requiring compensation.
  • Case Law: Penn Central Transportation Co. v. City of New York – Regulation did not constitute a taking because it did not interfere with the primary expectation for the property’s use.

VIII. Indiana-Specific Property Law Considerations

  • Doctrine of Marketable Title: Indiana recognizes the Marketable Title Act, which aims to simplify land transactions and extinguish old claims against a property after a certain period (Ind. Code § 32-21-4).
  • Homestead Exemption: Indiana law protects a certain amount of a debtor’s home equity from creditors (Ind. Code § 34-55-10-2).
  • Indiana Land Trusts: Indiana allows the creation of land trusts, where legal and equitable titles are separated, often used for privacy and estate planning purposes.

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