Property Law Study Guide – Missouri 1L
I. Introduction to Property Law
A. Definition of Property
– Property is a legal relationship with respect to things, entitling a person to exclude others from the resources or things.
– Types of property: Real property (land and improvements), Personal property (tangible and intangible).
B. Theories of Property
– Lockean Labor Theory: Property rights justified by the expenditure of labor.
– Utilitarian Theory: Property rights are a tool to maximize societal happiness.
– Theory of First Possession: Property rights arise from being the first to claim.
II. Possession and Ownership
A. Acquisition of Property
– Original Acquisition: Claiming something that has never been owned before.
– Subsequent Acquisition: Acquiring property from someone who previously owned it.
B. Finders Keepers
– Rule of Finders: The first person to take possession of lost or unclaimed property acquires property rights over it.
– Bailments: When property is temporarily transferred to someone for safekeeping or other purposes.
III. Estates in Land
A. Present Estates
– Fee Simple Absolute: The complete ownership of a property without any limitations or conditions.
– Life Estate: Ownership of land for the duration of a person’s life.
– Fee Tail: An estate that can only be inherited by direct descendants.
B. Future Interests
– Reversion: The interest that remains with the grantor after granting a lesser estate.
– Remainder: A future interest held by someone other than the grantor.
– Executory Interest: A future interest that cuts short the previous estate upon the occurrence of a specified event.
IV. Concurrent Ownership
A. Tenancy in Common
– Separate but undivided interests in property. Each tenant has the right to use and possess the whole property.
B. Joint Tenancy
– Includes the right of survivorship. Upon death, a tenant’s interest automatically passes to the surviving joint tenants.
C. Tenancy by the Entirety
– A special form of joint tenancy between married couples. Neither party can dissolve without the consent of the other.
V. Landlord-Tenant Law
A. Leasehold Estates
– Fixed-term tenancy: Lease for a specific period.
– Periodic tenancy: Lease that continues for successive intervals.
– Tenancy at will: Lease that can be terminated at any time by either party.
– Tenancy at sufferance: When a tenant remains after the lease has expired.
B. Landlord’s Duties
– Duty to Deliver Possession: Landlord must provide the tenant with the actual possession of the property.
– Implied Warranty of Habitability: Rental property must be fit and safe for human habitation.
C. Tenant’s Duties
– Duty to Pay Rent: Tenant must pay the agreed-upon rent.
– Duty to Avoid Waste: Tenant must not damage the property.
VI. Real Property Transactions
A. The Contract of Sale
– Requires a written contract that includes all essential terms, adhering to the Statute of Frauds.
B. Marketable Title
– The seller must provide title to the property that is free from significant defects.
C. Disclosure Requirements
– Sellers are generally required to disclose known material defects to the buyers.
VII. Recording Statutes
- Notice Statute: Protects subsequent purchasers who purchase in good faith and without notice of prior claims.
- Race-Notice Statute: Protects subsequent bona fide purchasers who record first.
- Race Statute: Protects the first to record regardless of notice.
A. Easement Appurtenant
– An easement that is tied to the land and benefits the holder of the dominant tenement.
B. Easement in Gross
– An easement that benefits an individual or entity, not related to the holder’s ownership of any parcel of land.
C. Creation of Easements
– Express Grant or Reservation: Created by a deed or will.
– Prescription: Acquired through continuous and open use without permission for a statutory period.
– Necessity: Arises when a landowner has no access to roads.
IX. Covenants and Servitudes
A. Real Covenants
– Promises that run with the land, imposing obligations or conferring benefits upon landowners.
B. Equitable Servitudes
– Similar to real covenants, but the remedy for breach is injunctive relief rather than money damages.
C. Common Interest Communities
– Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs) and their power to enforce covenants and restrictions.
X. Zoning and Land Use Regulation
A. Zoning Ordinances
– Laws that limit the use of land for specific types of uses (residential, commercial, industrial).
B. Variances and Special Use Permits
– Allowances for land to be used in a way that deviates from zoning requirements.
C. Eminent Domain
– The power of the government to take private property for public use with just compensation.
XI. Land Use and Environmental Law
A. Environmental Regulations
– Laws that regulate the impact of human activities on the environment.
B. Missouri-Specific Regulations
– Missouri Clean Water Law: Regulates water pollution within the state.
– Missouri Land Reclamation Act: Governs the reclamation of mined land.
XII. Case Law – Using IRAC Format
Pierson v. Post (1805)
– Issue: Whether Post, the pursuer of a fox, had a right to the animal over Pierson, who actually killed and captured it.
– Rule: A wild animal must be captured and killed or mortally wounded to establish possession.
– Analysis: Pierson interrupted Post’s pursuit and captured the fox. The court held that mere pursuit did not give Post a right to the fox.
– Conclusion: Pierson was entitled to the fox because he was the one to actually capture it.
Moore v. Regents of the University of California (1990)
– Issue: Whether Moore had property rights over his cells that were developed into a valuable cell line without his knowledge or consent.
– Rule: Individuals do not retain property rights to discarded cells or body tissues.
– Analysis: The court found that while Moore’s consent was required for the removal of his cells, he did not have property rights over the cells once they were removed.
– Conclusion: The university did not violate Moore’s property rights by using his cells.
XIII. Missouri-Specific Case Law
Hawk v. State (Mo. 2001)
– Issue: Concerning regulatory takings under Missouri law.
– Rule: A regulatory taking occurs when government regulation goes too far and effectively takes private property for public use without just compensation.
– Analysis: The court examined the economic impact of the regulation, the extent of the regulation’s interference with investment-backed expectations, and the character of the government action.
– Conclusion: The court held that the regulation in question did not constitute a regulatory taking.