Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Property Law

My next exam is in Property Law. Property is a subject which is disliked because it takes relative essay concepts and makes then complicated. For example, all land in England belongs in principle to the Crown and ownership is confined to owning estates and interests in land.

Another negative aspect of property law is that many of the cases are actually quite sad and disturbing. This is particularly true of cases concerning co-ownership and beneficial interests. My tutor, Prof. Peter Sparkes, describes this as the "all men are bastards approach to law," as many of the cases involve husbands going behind their wife's backs.

The worst case however is that of Kinch v. Bullard. This was a case of co-ownership in Joint Tenancy. Co-ownership can in Equity take two forms: Joint Tenancy and Tenancy in Common. Joint Tenants are legally treated as one and when one tenant dies the other(s) automatically takes over his interests. Tenants in Common own separate shares in the property, which they can sell individually or be pass to others by a will or to the next of kin.

Kinch and Bullard were married and Joint Tenants. The marriage was breaking up and the wife, who was terminally ill, decided to sever the Joint Tenancy and thereby create a Tenancy in Common. To do this she had to give notice in writing to her husband, so she instructed her solicitor to send a letter. The day before the letter arrived the husband had a heart attack. The wife, know believing she would survive the husband (and thus becoming single owner of the house), regretted sending the letter and went to the house and picked it up before husband read it.

The wife did outlive the husband, but unfortunately (for her heirs) the courts considered the Joint tenancy as severed by the letter.

I found the whole thing was really sad, speculating in who would die first. I guess that is the way of the world and of the law!


At 12 June, 2006 17:01, Blogger Torsten Pedersen said...

Just had my Property Law exam.

One of the exam question was specifically directed at Kinch v. Bullard, which remembered much better because of my discussion of it here on this blog!


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