Iowa Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Iowa Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Introduction to Property Law

  • Definition: Property law deals with the relationships between individuals and the things they own, called property. The two main types are real property (land and buildings) and personal property (movable objects).
  • Theories of Property: First Possession, Labor Theory, Utilitarian Theory, and Personhood Theory.
  • Bundle of Rights: The concept that ownership entails a bundle of rights, including the right to possess, use, exclude, and transfer property.

II. Possession and Ownership

  • Acquisition by Capture: The case Pierson v. Post set forth the principle that a wild animal must be mortally wounded or captured to establish possession.
  • Finders Keepers: The finder of lost property has rights superior to everyone except the true owner, as outlined in Armory v. Delamirie.
  • Adverse Possession: A means of acquiring title to land by possessing it for a statutory period under certain conditions. In Iowa, the statutory period is 10 years (Iowa Code § 560.1).

III. Estates and Interests in Land

  • Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete estate one can have in land. It is inheritable and has no limitations or conditions attached.
  • Life Estate: An interest in land that lasts for the life of a specific individual. Upon that person’s death, the estate goes to another designated party, known as the remainderman.
  • Future Interests: Interests in land that will vest in the future: Remainders (vested and contingent) and executory interests.
  • Concurrent Ownership: Joint tenancy, tenancy by the entirety, and tenancy in common are forms of co-ownership, each with different rights and rules regarding survivorship and alienation.

IV. Land Use Rights

  • Easements: A non-possessory right to use land owned by another for a specific purpose. The case Holbrook v. Taylor illustrates the establishment of an easement by implication.
  • Covenants: Promises written into deeds and other instruments regarding the use of land, often enforceable through equitable servitudes or real covenants.
  • Zoning: Government regulation of land use according to specified categories. Iowa has its own zoning regulations that must be followed, along with local ordinances.

V. Landlord-Tenant Law

  • Leasehold Estates: Non-freehold estates including tenancy for years, periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.
  • Landlord Duties: Include maintaining the premises, making repairs, and adhering to health and safety codes. In Iowa, landlords must comply with the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act (Iowa Code § 562A).
  • Tenant Duties: Include paying rent on time, keeping the premises in good condition, and not engaging in illegal activities.
  • Eviction Process: Legal process by which a landlord may remove a tenant. In Iowa, specific notice and procedure requirements must be followed (Iowa Code § 562A.27).

VI. Real Property Sales and Transfers

  • Contract of Sale: An agreement between buyer and seller of real estate, which includes terms like price and description of the property.
  • Deeds: The official document transferring ownership from seller to buyer. In Iowa, deeds must be recorded to provide notice to subsequent purchasers (Iowa Code § 558.19).
  • Title: Evidence of ownership. Defects in title can be grounds for a lawsuit.
  • Recording Statutes: Rules governing how land titles and interests are recorded, giving notice to third parties. Iowa follows a “race-notice” statute (Iowa Code § 558.1).

VII. Mortgages and Financing

  • Types of Mortgages: Includes fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, and balloon payment mortgages.
  • Foreclosure: The legal process by which a lender can sell property to satisfy an unpaid debt. Iowa allows both judicial and non-judicial foreclosures, depending on the circumstances (Iowa Code § 654.18).
  • Equity of Redemption: The right of a mortgagor to redeem property before the foreclosure sale. In Iowa, there is also a statutory right of redemption after the sale (Iowa Code § 628.3).

VIII. Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings

  • Eminent Domain: The power of the government to take private property for public use with just compensation, as outlined in the Fifth Amendment and applicable state laws, including the Iowa Code.
  • Regulatory Takings: When government regulation goes so far that it constitutes a taking under the Fifth Amendment, requiring just compensation. Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City is a seminal case establishing a multi-factor test to determine if a regulatory taking has occurred.

IX. Iowa-Specific Property Law Considerations

  • Iowa Homestead Rights: Iowa has specific laws protecting a portion of a person’s home from creditors (Iowa Code § 561).
  • Iowa Partition Law: Rules governing the division of co-owned property, which can be partitioned in kind or by sale (Iowa Code § 651).
  • Iowa Fence Law: Outlines responsibilities for building and maintaining fences between properties (Iowa Code § 359A).

This guide offers a concise overview of key concepts, cases, and applicable laws relevant to a 1L property law course focused on Iowa law. For exam preparation, students should delve deeper into each topic, reviewing case law in detail and understanding how Iowa statutes may vary from general principles.

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