Title: Property Law Study Guide for 1L Students – Pennsylvania
I. Introduction to Property Law
Property law governs the relationships between individuals and things. It defines what property is, how it’s used, who can use it, and what restrictions apply. The two primary types of property are real property (land and buildings) and personal property (movable objects).
Case: Johnson v. M’Intosh (1823) – Established the “discovery doctrine,” which holds that land ownership is determined by discovery and conquest.
II. Possession and Ownership
Ownership confers the right to possess, use, manage, income, capital, security, transmissibility, absence of term, and immunity from expropriation. Possession is a property interest under which an individual exercises control over something to the exclusion of all others.
Case: Pierson v. Post (1805) – Demonstrated that mere pursuit of property (a fox in this case) does not constitute possession or ownership.
III. Land Ownership
Land ownership laws in Pennsylvania involve the rights to use the surface of the land, the air above, and the ground below within the property boundaries.
Case: Commonwealth v. Alger (1851) – Dictated that a landowner owns at least as much of the air space above the ground that he can occupy or use in connection with the land.
IV. Adverse Possession
Adverse possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period of time, defined by a statute of limitations.
Case: Vonckx v. Borough of Ridley Park (1998) – The claimant must establish actual, continuous, exclusive, visible, notorious, distinct, and hostile possession of the land for the statutory period.
Easements grant the legal right to use another person’s land for a specific purpose. They might allow access through a property or the use of a water source.
Case: Roaring Brook Township v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (2013) – Dealt with a conservation easement, highlighting the balance between private property rights and the public interest.
VI. Landlord-Tenant Law
In Pennsylvania, landlords must maintain a safe and habitable apartment, and tenants are obligated to pay rent and avoid damaging the property.
Case: Pugh v. Holmes (1976) – Established the “implied warranty of habitability” in Pennsylvania, meaning landlords must keep leased premises in a condition fit for human habitation.
VII. Conveyance of Real Property
Pennsylvania law requires a written deed to transfer real property. It must include a legal description of the property, the signature of the seller, and often the signature of the buyer.
Case: Hickey v. Green (1889) – Demonstrated the importance of a written deed in the conveyance of property.
Zoning regulates land use across the city and promotes public health, safety, and general welfare. It controls the size, location, and use of buildings.
Case: Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926) – Established that zoning regulations are a valid exercise of police power, delegated by the state to local government.
Trespass involves entering another person’s property without permission. Pennsylvania law allows property owners to sue trespassers for damages.
Case: Jacque v. Steenberg Homes (1997) – Court held that property rights serve a higher moral or social duty, and vindicated the homeowners’ right to exclude, even if the economic consequence was minimal.
Remember, the study of property law involves many principles and case laws. It’s critical to understand the concepts, legal principles, and relevant statutes to apply them effectively in different scenarios. This study guide provides a foundation, but thorough reading and understanding of the concepts are necessary for successful navigation through this course.