Maryland Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Maryland Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Property law is a fundamental area of law that deals with the relationships between individuals and the legal rules that govern the ownership and possession of land and personal property. In this study guide, we will cover key concepts, cases, and Maryland-specific laws relevant to a 1L property law course.

I. Introduction to Property Law
A. Definitions
1. Property: A legally protected claim to resources, such as land, personal belongings, intellectual property, etc.
2. Real Property: Land and interests in land (e.g., buildings, minerals)
3. Personal Property: All property that is not real property (e.g., cars, stocks, furniture)

B. Property Rights Concepts
1. Possession: Actual holding or control of property.
2. Title: Formal right of ownership of property.
3. Transfer: The process by which property rights are conveyed from one person to another.

II. Possession and Acquisition of Property
A. Rule of First Possession
– Concept: The first person to take possession of an object that does not have an owner acquires property rights in it.
– Case: Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823) – Established that the discovery of land by European nations bestowed title to the land, superior to the Native American right of occupancy.

B. Finders
– Concept: Finders of property can assert rights over the found property against all but the true owner or prior possessors.
– Case: Armory v. Delamirie (1722) – A chimney sweep’s boy who found a jewel had rights over the jewel against all but the true owner.

C. Adverse Possession
– Concept: Acquiring title to property through open, notorious, exclusive, adverse, and continuous possession for a statutory period.
– Maryland Law: In Maryland, the statutory period is 20 years (Md. Code, Real Property § 5-103).
– Case: Howard v. Kunto (1970) – The court upheld the claim of adverse possession where the claimant had used the property in the summer for several years, even though it was not a continuous year-round residence.

III. Estates in Land and Future Interests
A. Freehold Estates
1. Fee Simple Absolute: The most complete ownership in land, unlimited duration.
2. Life Estate: Ownership for the duration of a person’s life.
3. Fee Tail: Historic interest, conveying property to a person and the heirs of their body.

B. Future Interests
1. Reversion: A future interest left in the grantor or his heirs.
2. Remainder: A future interest created at the same time and by the same instrument as another estate, and limited to arise immediately upon the termination of that estate.
3. Executory Interest: A future interest in a third party that cuts off another’s interest.

C. Concurrent Ownership
– Joint Tenancy: Equal ownership of property with a right of survivorship.
– Tenancy in Common: Ownership of property by two or more people without the right of survivorship.
– Tenancy by the Entirety: A form of joint tenancy between married partners with the right of survivorship.

IV. Land Transactions
A. The Deed
– Concept: A written instrument that transfers the title of property from one person to another.
– Requirements: Must include a grantor, a grantee, consideration, legal description of the property, and delivery.

B. The Recording System
– Concept: The system by which instruments affecting the title to real property are recorded to provide notice to future purchasers or creditors.
– Maryland Law: Maryland is a “race-notice” jurisdiction (Md. Code, Real Property § 3-201), meaning the first to record the deed after acquiring it in good faith and without notice of another claim holds the title.

C. Mortgages and Financing
– Concept: A security interest in real property held by a lender as a security for a debt, usually in the form of a loan.
– Foreclosure: The legal process by which a lender can repossess the property if the borrower defaults on the loan.
– Maryland Specifics: Maryland has a statutory right of redemption, allowing homeowners to reclaim foreclosed property by paying the full sale price.

V. Land Use Regulation
A. Zoning
– Concept: The division of a city or county into districts to regulate the use of land and buildings and the size of yards and open spaces.
– Key Case: Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926) – Established that zoning was a valid exercise of police power.

B. Eminent Domain
– Concept: The power of the government to take private property for public use with just compensation.
– Maryland Law: Art. III, § 40 of the Maryland Constitution and Md. Code, Real Property § 12-101 et seq. govern eminent domain proceedings in Maryland.

VI. Landlord-Tenant Law
A. Leasehold Estates
– Concept: A tenant’s right to possess property for a certain period as stated in a lease.
– Types: Tenancy for years, periodic tenancy, tenancy at will, and tenancy at sufferance.

B. Tenant Rights and Obligations
– Implied Warranty of Habitability: The landlord must maintain premises that meet basic living and safety standards.
– Maryland Law: Md. Code, Real Property §§ 8-211, 8-212 describe the rights and obligations of landlords and tenants, including the requirement to provide a lead-free environment.

VII. Miscellaneous Property Issues
A. Easements
– Concept: A nonpossessory right to use another’s land for a specific purpose.
– Types: Express easements, easements by implication, easements by necessity, and prescriptive easements.

B. Covenants and Servitudes
– Concept: Private agreements that govern the use of land.
– Real Covenants: Promises that run with the land and bind subsequent owners.
– Equitable Servitudes: Covenants enforceable in equity, often concerning land use restrictions in subdivisions.

This study guide provides a framework for reviewing the essential elements of property law as taught in a 1L class, particularly within the context of Maryland law. Students preparing for a final semester exam should delve into each concept, review the cases, and study the specific statutes and regulations that govern property law in Maryland. It is also important for students to practice applying these concepts to hypothetical fact patterns and to consult additional resources as needed to fully prepare for their exams.

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