West Virginia Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

Title: West Virginia Law School 1L Study Guide for Property

I. Possession and Ownership:
Possession refers to the control a person physically exercises over an object. Ownership refers to the bundle of rights and duties that one has concerning things.

  1. Finder’s Rights: The rule is first in time, first in right. The first person to take possession of the object has superior rights to all others except the true owner.

Case: Armory v. Delamirie (1722)
Issue: Whether a finder of a jewel has a superior right of possession over everyone except the true owner?
Rule: The finder of a jewel has a superior right of possession over everyone except the true owner.
Analysis: The chimney sweep found the jewel and hence had a superior right over the jeweler who was merely a recipient of the jewel for appraisal.
Conclusion: The chimney sweep was entitled to possession of the jewel over the jeweler.

II. Estates in Land:
These are described as the duration of the rights, the ‘quantum of estate’—how long the rights last.

  1. Fee Simple Absolute: It is the maximum possible estate or right of ownership of real property, continuing forever.

  2. Life Estate: It is an interest in real property, which lasts for the duration of someone’s life.

  3. Leasehold Estate: It is an estate for a fixed period.

  4. Future Interests: These are present legal rights to property ownership, not possession, at some future time.

III. Co-ownership and Marital Interests:
Co-ownership occurs when title to real property is vested in two or more persons.

  1. Joint Tenancy: Each tenant has an undivided right to possess the whole property and a right of survivorship.

  2. Tenancy in Common: There’s no right of survivorship, each tenant can sell his share without the consent of the other.

Case: Riddle v. Harmon (1980)
Issue: Can a joint tenant unilaterally sever the joint tenancy without the other joint tenant’s consent?
Rule: A joint tenant can sever the joint tenancy unilaterally.
Analysis: One of the joint tenants executed a deed to herself, which converted the estate into a tenancy in common.
Conclusion: The court held that a joint tenant can sever the joint tenancy unilaterally.

  1. Tenancy by the Entirety: It’s exclusive to married couples in West Virginia. Neither spouse can eliminate the right of survivorship without the consent of the other.

IV. Landlord and Tenant Law:

  1. Lease: It is an agreement, usually a contract, that conveys the right to possession of property.

  2. Covenant of Quiet Enjoyment: It implies that the tenant will not be disturbed in his possession by the landlord.

  3. Constructive Eviction: Occurs when the landlord fails to maintain the premises, and this failure makes the premises uninhabitable.

Case: Reste Realty Corp. v. Cooper (1969)
Issue: Can the failure of the landlord to maintain the premises result in constructive eviction of the tenant?
Rule: The failure of the landlord to maintain the premises may result in the constructive eviction of the tenant.
Analysis: The tenant left the premises because the landlord did not remedy the flooding, which made the premises uninhabitable.
Conclusion: The court held that the tenant was constructively evicted and could terminate the lease.

V. Zoning:
Zoning is the division of land into districts to regulate the use of land and buildings and the construction of improvements.

Case: Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. (1926)
Issue: Is zoning constitutional?
Rule: Zoning is constitutional as a valid exercise of the police power.
Analysis: The Village zoned Ambler’s land for residential use, prohibiting industrial use. The court found that this zoning was a valid exercise of the police power.
Conclusion: The court upheld the constitutionality of zoning.

VI. Easements:
Easements are nonpossessory right to use the land of another for a specific purpose.

  1. Affirmative Easements: These give the owner the right to use the land of another.

  2. Negative Easements: These prevents the owner from using their land in a way that would harm another’s land.

VII. Adverse Possession:
Adverse possession allows a trespasser to acquire legal title to the land if they openly inhabit and improve an otherwise neglected stretch of land over a certain period.

Case: Mannillo v. Gorski (1969)
Issue: Must adverse possession be intentional?
Rule: Adverse possession does not have to be intentional.
Analysis: Gorski mistakenly built a stairway on Mannillo’s property. The court found this encroachment was sufficiently adverse.
Conclusion: The court held for Gorski.

VIII. Conveyancing:
Conveyancing is the transfer of legal title of property from one person to another.

  1. Deeds: A deed is a written instrument that conveys the title of property.

  2. Warranties of Title: These are legal guarantees from the seller to the buyer that the seller has the right to sell the property, and there are no encumbrances other than those the seller has disclosed.

  3. Recording Systems: Recording a deed puts the world on notice that the property has been sold.

IX. Mortgages:
A mortgage is a legal agreement by which a bank or another creditor lends money at interest in exchange for taking the title of the debtor’s property, with the condition that the conveyance of title becomes void upon the payment of the debt.

In West Virginia, title theory applies, where the mortgagee (usually a bank) holds the title until the mortgage is paid in full.

The above guide provides a broad overview of the topics covered in a 1L property course in West Virginia. It is recommended to review class notes, textbooks, and take practice exams to fully prepare for the final exam.

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