Property Rights in United Socialist Republic of Ontario


“As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce. The wood of the forest, the grass of the field, and all the natural fruits of the earth, which, when land was in common, cost the labourer only the trouble of gathering them, come, even to him, to have an additional price fixed upon them. He must then pay for the licence to gather them; and must give up to the landlord a portion of what his labour either collects or produces. This portion, or, what comes to the same thing, the price of this portion, constitutes the rent of land ….”
Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776)
The law of Canada and the U.S. finds it roots in British Common Law. To understand the principals of our laws you must know where it came from. The footings of this document start with the Magna Carta and then move forward in time.
Since the writing of law is an evolutional process, as laws are adopted they must first be reconciled with what has already been written failing which you have laws countering laws.
As is the case today we have three tiers of government all writing laws but the point in fact is that no one appears to be reading them or cross referencing them. Conflict has become the accepted norm. Once in place a law is subject to case law that may or may not be subject to Political influence. Not the intention of the originators of our legal system.
English land law is the law of real property in England and Wales. Because of its heavy historical and social significance, land is a major part of the wider English property law. Ownership of land has its roots in the feudal system established by William the Conqueror after 1066, and with a gradually diminishing aristocratic presence, now sees a large number of owners playing in an active market for real estate.
The modern law’s sources derive from the old courts of common law and equity which includes legislation such as the Law of Property Act 1925, the Settled Land Act 1925, the Land Charges Act 1972, the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 and the Land Registration Act 2002, and the European Convention on Human Rights. At its core, English land law involves the acquisition, content and priority of rights and obligations among people with interests in land. Having a property right in land, as opposed to a contractual or some other personal right, matters because it creates privileges over other people’s claims, particularly if the land is sold on, the possessor goes insolvent, or when claiming various remedies, like specific performance, in court.
The traditional content of English land law relates to property rights that derive from common law, equity and the registration system. Ordinarily, ownership of land is acquired by a contract of sale, and to complete a purchase, the buyer must formally register her interest with the Land Registry. Similar systems run in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Around 18 per cent of land in England and Wales remains unregistered, so property disputes are still determined by principles developed by the courts. Human rights, like the right to a family life and home under ECHR article 8 and the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions, under article 1 of the First Protocol, apply for everyone.
Aside from sale contracts, people may acquire interests in land through contributions to a home’s purchase price, or to family life, if the courts can find evidence of a common intention that this should happen. The law acknowledges a “resulting” or “constructive trust” over the property, and in recognition of people’s social interests in their homes, as with a lease under 7 years length, these do not need to be registered. Third, people can acquire land through proprietary estoppel. If someone is given an assurance that they will receive property, and they rely on this to their detriment, a court may acknowledge it. Fourth, adverse possession allows people who possess land, without formal objection by the owner for at least 12 years, to take registered title. Multiple people can be interested in land, and it can be used in multiple ways. There could be a single freeholder, or people can own land jointly. The law closely regulates the circumstances under which each may sever or sell their share. Leases, and to some degree licenses, allocate the use of land to new owners for a period of time. Mortgages and other forms of security interest are usually used to give moneylenders the right to seize property in the event that the debtor does not repay a loan. Easements and covenants involve rights and duties between neighbours, for instance with an agreement that a neighbour will not build on a piece of land, or to grant a right of way.
The start of an English law of real property, however, came after the Norman Invasion of 1066, when a common law was built throughout England. The new King, William the Conqueror, started standardising England’s feudal rules, and compiled a reference for all land and its value in the Domesday Book of 1086. This was used to determine taxes, and the feudal dues that were to be paid. Feudalism meant that all land was held by the Monarch. Estates in land were granted to lords, who in turn parcelled out property to tenants. Tenants and lords had obligations of work, military service, and payment of taxation to those up the chain, and ultimately to the Crown. Most of the peasantry were bonded to their masters. Serfs, cottars or slaves, who may have composed as much as 88 per cent of the population in 1086, were bound by law to work on the land. They could not leave without permission of their Lords. But also, even those who were classed as free men were factually limited in their freedom, by the limited chances to acquire property.
The Magna Carta 1215 guaranteed rights of representation to the barons, but contained very little for “commoners”. However, a number of clauses were extracted and expanded into the Charter of the Forest 1217, which did allow people access to common land, where people could hunt and fish for food. Over the centuries, the law expanded on the extent of common ownership, but generally the trend was toward removing land from people. The Commons Act 1236 allowed the Lord of a Manor to enclose any manorial land that had previously been common, and the Statute of Westminster 1285 formalised the system of entail so that land would only pass to the heirs of a landlord. The Statute Quia Emptores Terrarum 1290 allowed alienation of land only by substitution of the title holder, halting creation of further sub-tenants. The civil liberties of the Magna Carta of 1215, and its reissue in 1297, were only meant for barons and lords, while the vast majority of people were poor, subjugated and dispossessed.
The courts of common law (the Court of Common Pleas and the Court of the King’s Bench) took a strict approach to the rules of title to land, and how many people could have legal interests in land. However, the King had the power to hear petitions and overturn cases of common law. He delegated the hearing of petitions to his Lord Chancellor, whose office grew into a court. During the crusades, landowners who went to fight would transfer title to a person they trusted so that feudal services could be performed and received. But some who survived had returned only to find that the people they entrusted were refusing to transfer title back.
Unlike the common law judges, the Chancellor held the cestui que use, the owner in equity, could be a different person, if this is what good conscience dictated. This recognition of a split in English law, between legal and equitable owner, between someone who controlled title and another for whose benefit the land would be used, was the beginning of trust law. It was similarly useful among Franciscan friars, who would transfer title of land to others as they were precluded from holding property by their vows of poverty. Uses or trusts were also employed to avoid the payment of feudal dues. If a person died, the law stated a landlord was entitled to money before the land passed to heir, and the whole property under the doctrine of escheat if there were no heirs. Transferring title to a group of people for common use could ensure this never happened, because if one person died he could be replaced, and it was unlikely for all to die at the same time. King Henry VIII saw that this deprived the Crown of revenue, and so in the Statute of Uses 1535 he attempted to prohibit them, stipulating all land belonged in fact to the cestui que use. However, when Henry VIII was gone, the Court of Chancery held that it had no application where land was leased. Moreover, the primacy of equity over the common law was reasserted, supported by King James I in 1615, in the Earl of Oxford’s case. The institution of the use continued, as new sources of revenue from the mercantile exploits in the New World decreased the Crown’s reliance on feudal dues. By the early 1700s, the use had formalised into a trust: where land was settled to be held by a trustee, for the benefit of another, the Courts of Chancery recognised the beneficiary as the true owner in equity.
As national and global trade expanded, the power of a new monied class of business men was growing, and the economic and political importance of land was diminishing with it. The moral philosopher and father of economics, Adam Smith, reflected these changes as he argued in The Wealth of Nations that landowners position allowed them to extract rents from others in return for very little.
In the 19th century, a growing liberal movement for reform produced three major results. First, there was increasing pressure to dismantle the privileges of the landed aristocracy. The most direct reform was to gradually abolition the “strict settlement”, through the Settled Land Acts of 1882-1925. An owner of land could direct that property on his death would only pass down the line of his relations, thus preventing it being sold to anyone on the market. This also included the view that all land should be put on a register, so as to ease its ability to be marketed.
The Land Transfer Act 1875 introduced a voluntary system, but it was not taken up. After the 1906 general election the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, David Lloyd George, in his People’s Budget of 1909 introduced a tax on land to force it onto the market. This provoked a constitutional crisis, as the hereditary House of Lords vetoed it, forcing fresh elections. But the Liberal government was returned and it abolished the Lords right of veto in the Parliament Act 1911. By then, land registration reforms were a minor political issue and only really opposed by solicitors who earned sizeable conveyancing fees.
Eventually, the Land Registration Act 1925 required any dealing with property triggered compulsory registration. Second, the Court of Chancery, though it may have mitigated the petty strictnesses of the common law of property, was seen as cumbersome and arcane. It was subjected to ridicule in books like Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and his fictional case of Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a Chancery matter that nobody understood and dragged on for years and years. Largely this was because there were only two judges administering equitable principles, so from 1873 to 1875, the common law and equity courts were merged into one hierarchy.
Under the Supreme Court of Judicature Act 1875, equitable principles would prevail in case of conflict. Third, in most counties and boroughs, the ability to vote for Members of Parliament had been tied to possession of property in land. From the Great Reform Act 1832, to the Reform Act 1867, and the Representation of the People Act 1918, the connection between property and the vote was gradually reduced and then abolished.
Together with the Parliament Act 1911, a more democratic constitution had emerged, though it was only in 1928 that the voting age for men and women became equal and only in 1948 that the double votes and extra constituencies for students of the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and London were removed. By the end of the First World War, the power of the old landed aristocracy had largely been broken.
Over the twentieth century, land law became increasingly social in character. First, from the Housing Act 1919 and the post war government’s policy of building “homes fit for heroes” more and more houses were built, and maintained, by local governments. In private accommodation, new rights were enacted for tenants against their landlords, with some security of tenure and rent regulation, a break on unfettered “freedom of contract”. The policy was halted by the Housing Act 1980, which sought to privatise properties by introducing a “right to buy” one’s council home. At the same time, rights for tenants, and constraints on rental increases were reduced, albeit that tenants did retain some minima of rights, for example under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Second, property was increasingly used as a source of finance for business, and similarly became source of profit for banks, mortgage lenders and real estate investment trusts. This fact drove changes in the market for mortgage regulation, while the growing financial interest in land tended to conflict with family life.
As the UK came closer to gender equality, women as much as men contributed to the purchase of homes, as well as contributing to raising families and children. In 1970, in Pettitt v Pettitt, Lord Diplock remarked that “the wider employment of married women in industry, commerce and the professions and the emergence of a property-owning, particularly a real-property-mortgaged-to-a-building-society-owning, democracy” had compelled courts to acknowledge contributions to the home and family life as potentially generating proprietary interests. However, if banks sought to repossess homes from people who had defaulted on mortgage repayments, the courts were faced with a choice of whether to prefer those economic interests over social values.
The membership of the United Kingdom in the European Convention on Human Rights meant that article 8, on the right to a private and family life, could change the freedom of banks or landlords to evict people, particularly where children’s stability and upbringing were at stake, though by the early twenty-first century the case law had remained cautious. Third, land use in general was subject to a comprehensive regulatory framework. The old common laws between neighbours, of easements, covenants, nuisance and trespass were largely eclipsed by locally and democratically determined planning laws, environmental regulation, and a framework for use of agricultural resources.
English land law draws on four main sources to determine property rights: the common law and equitable principles developed by the courts, a system of land registration, a continuing system for unregistered land, and the European Convention on Human Rights.
First of all, the courts of common law and equity gave people with “property” rights various privileges over people who acquired mere “personal” rights. To acquire property over land (as with any other object of value), as opposed to a contract, for example, to use it, a buyer and seller simply needed to agree that property would be passed. The law then recognised a “property” right with various privileges over people with purely “personal” claims.
The best form of property would involve exclusive possession, and it usually bound anyone who attempted to interfere with an owner’s use, particularly in cases of insolvency, if other people with interests in the land sold their stake to a third party, or in getting remedies to enforce one’s right.
Before 1925, property rights in land (unlike, for example, a company’s shares) only had to be evidenced in paper title deeds. It was therefore believed that a system of land registration was desirable, so that people’s rights over land would be certain, and conveyancing would be simpler and cheaper.
The second system of land began with the Land Registration Act 1925, and the rules were recast in the Land Registration Act 2002. Instead of paper title deeds determining people’s property rights in land, the entries in the registry were the source that determine people’s property rights. However, many property rights were never expected to be registered, particularly the social claims that people had on family homes, or short leases. Furthermore, not all land had to be registered. Only when formal transactions with land took place did registration become a compulsory. This meant that by 2013, 88 per cent of land or 126,000 square kilometres was registered with Land Registry. But a third system of land regulation remained for the 12 per cent of unregistered land. Though somewhat amended by legislation, this system for determining property rights and disputes remained much like the old common law and equity. Fourth, and particularly important since the Human Rights Act 1998 allowed people to plead claims directly in the UK courts without having to wait for an appeal to Strasbourg, property rights were affected by an autonomous set of human rights under the European Convention. Not simply the common law, or land registration, but also people’s right to a family life, privacy in one’s home, and peaceful enjoyment of possessions, could change the outcomes of property disputes.
Land law is also known as the law of real property. It relates to the acquisition, protection and conflicts of people’s rights, legal and equitable, in land. This means three main things. First, “property rights” (in Latin, a right in rem) are generally said to bind third parties, whereas personal rights (a right in personam) are exercisable only against the person who owes an obligation.
English law acknowledges a fixed number, or numerous clauses of property rights, which create various privileges. The main situations where this distinction matters are if a debtor to two or more creditors has gone insolvent (i.e. bankrupt), or if there is a dispute over possession of a specific thing.
If a person or a business has gone insolvent, and has things in their possession which are the property of others’, then those people can usually take back their property free of anyone else’s claims. But if an insolvent person’s creditors are merely owed personal debts, they cannot take back their money freely: any losses have to be divided among all creditors. Often, creditors can contract for a proprietary right (known as a security interest) to secure repayment of debts. This gives the same result as having another proprietary right, so the secured creditor takes priority in the insolvency queue.
Secured creditors, most usually, are banks and for most people the most familiar kind of security interest is a mortgage. In this way, property rights area always “stronger” than personal rights, even though they may be acquired by the same means: a contract.
Most of the time, property rights are also stronger than personal because English courts have been historically more willing to order specific performance as a remedy for interference with property rights. People with personal rights, such as to the performance of a contract, are presumptively entitled to money in compensation, unless damages would be an inadequate remedy. In its second main feature, English land law differs from civil law systems in the European Union, because it allows the separation of the “beneficial” ownership of property from legal title to property. If there is a “trust” of land, then trustees hold legal title, while the benefit, use and “equitable” title might belong to many other people. Legal title to real property can only be acquired in a limited number of formal ways, while equitable title can be recognised because of a person’s contribution, or the parties true intentions, or some other reason, if the law deems that it is fair and just (i.e. equitable) to recognise that someone else has a stake in the land.
The third main feature of the English law of real property is that “real” property (or “realty”) means land, and the things that goes with it, alone. This is classified as different from movables or other types of “personal” property (or “personalty”). The distinction matters mainly to define the scope of the subject matter, because there are different registration requirements, taxes, and other regulations for land’s use.
The technical definition of “land” encompasses slightly more than in the word’s common use. Under the Law of Property Act 1925, section 205(1)(ix) says land means “land of any tenure, mines and minerals, whether or not held apart from the surface, buildings or parts of buildings (whether the division is horizontal, vertical or made in any other way) and other hereditaments; also a manor, advowson, and a rent and other incorporeal hereditaments, and an easement, right, privilege or benefit in, over, or derived from land…” This cumbersome definition indicates two general ideas. First, land includes physical things attached to it (e.g. buildings and “hereditaments”) and, second, intangible rights (like an easement, a right of way). Perhaps in aspiration of appearing scientific, lawyers have become accustomed to describing property in land as being “four dimensional”.
The two dimensional area of land surface, bounded by a fence, is complemented by rights over all buildings and “fixtures”. This becomes most relevant in disputes after a contract to sell land, when a buyer alleges a thing was included in a sale, but a contract was silent on the specifics.
In Holland v Hodgson Blackburn J held that looms installed in a factory formed part of the land. Objects resting on the ground and “attached” only by gravity will not normally be part of the land, although it could be that the parties “intended” something different, or rather what the parties’ reasonable expectations were. Easily removable things, like carpets and curtains, or houseboats, will not be land, but less easily removed things, like taps and plugs are.
In the third dimension, as section 205(1)(ix) points out, mines and sub-surface things, belong to the surface owner, and up to a general limit of 500 feet, the landowner will have a right to the atmosphere above his land as well. Public policy sets the limit in both cases, so since the 16th century Case of Mines the Crown has a claim to valuable minerals or natural resources that are discovered, as well as valuable treasure. And in the other direction, aircraft or satellites that are sufficiently high are not considered to trespass, or infringe an owner’s right to peaceful enjoyment.
The fourth dimension of land to an English property lawyer, is time. Since 1925 English law recognises two “estates” in land, or kinds of ownership interest: the “fee simple”, which is a right to use for an unlimited time, and a “lease”, which is an interest for a fixed period of time. In all situations, however, use of the land is constrained by agreements or binding rights with neighbours, and the requirements of the local council and government.
Because land can serve multiple uses, for many people, and because its fixed nature means that its owner may not always be visible, a system of registration came to be seen as essential at the start of the 20th Century. From the Land Registry Act 1862 which created a body where people could voluntarily register, a succession of government reports and piecemeal reform finally culminated in a unified, compulsory registration system with the Land Registration Act 1925. Its proponents argued that a registration system would increase land’s marketability, and make its transfer as fluid as the registration system of company shares.
Theodore Ruoff, Chief Registrar from 1963, said the main three functions the register served was (1) to mirror ownership interests in land (2) to curtain off minor, or equitable interests that could be bypassed (or “overreached”) in the land conveyance business, and (3) to provide insurance through Registrar funds to anyone who lost property as a result of register defects. The ideal goal was thus to ensure that a comprehensive set of people whose interests had priority in a given real estate would be reflected on the register. With the Land Registration Act 2002, which recast the old law, the Registry has focused on “e-conveyancing”. Under sections 91 to 95, electronic registration counts as deeds, and aims to replace the paper filing for the 21st century.
However, reflecting the social use of land, the priority system of land registration and the Register’s record of all interests in land has made significant exceptions for informal methods of acquiring rights, and especially equitable interests, in land.
Under the Land Registration Act 2002 sections 27 to 30, an interest in land that is registered (for instance, freehold ownership, a long lease, or a mortgage) will take priority to all other interests that come later, or are not entered on the register. The first registered interest in time prevails. Yet under LRA 2002 Schedule 3, a series of exceptions, or “overriding interests” are listed. Under Schedule 3, paragraph 1, any lease that is less than seven years need not be registered, and will still bind other parties.
The reason is to strike a balance between an owner who may well keep hold of land for a long period, and a person who may be renting as a home. Most socially significant, under Schedule 3, paragraph 2 (formerly Land Registration Act 1925 s 70(1)(g)), the interest of a person who is in “actual occupation” need not be entered on the register, but will still bind later registered interests. This rule was said to be necessary to prevent the social right to a home being “lost in the welter of registration”. It is most used in favour of people, typically a spouse in a family home whose name is not on the title deeds, who have not registered an interest because the law has recognised they have acquired a right – not through a formal, or express contract, or gift – but by their contributions, or their reliance on another person’s assurances. If such a person is in “actual occupation”, then their informally acquired interest (usually through “constructive trust”, which recognises their contributions of money or work toward family life) will bind parties who acquire interests later on.
In a leading case, Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland, Mr Boland had had trouble repaying his bank for a loan he used on his building company. The loan was secured on his Beddington house, where he lived with Mrs Boland. However, Mrs Boland had not consented to the mortgage agreement. She was not registered on the home’s title deeds, but she had made significant financial contributions to the home. Despite Templeman J at first instance saying Mrs Boland only occupied the house through her husband, the Court of Appeal, and the House of Lords both agreed that Mrs Boland actually did occupy her home, and that her interest bound the bank. Later cases have shown the test for actual occupation must be purposively, and liberally determined, according to the claimant’s social circumstance. So in Chhokar v Chhokar a lady who had been beaten and attacked by her estranged husband’s friends to scare her from her Southall home, and who was at the time of her home being registered in hospital having Mr Chhokar’s child, was still in actual occupation. This meant that because she had contributed to the home’s purchase price, she was entitled to stay. Her interest bound, and took priority to, later registered interests.
Under LRA 2002 Schedule 3, paragraph 2, only if a person is asked about their interest, and they say nothing, or if it is not obvious on a reasonably careful inspection, would a person in actual occupation lose to a registered party. It has also been held that someone who occupies a house and has an interest in the home might have impliedly consented to taking subject to another party’s later interest. In both Bristol & West Building Society v Henning and Abbey National Building Society v Cann a couple purchased a home with the assistance of a loan from a building society, which was secured by mortgage on the property. In both cases the court held that because the buyers could not have got the house without the loan, there had been tacit consent by all to the bank taking priority, and no gap in time before registration when the spouse could have been said to be in prior actual occupancy.
Originally to facilitate transfers of land, the Law of Property Act 1925 sections 2 and 27 make provision so that people with equitable interests in land may not assert them against purchasers of the land if there are two trustees. If a person has an equitable interest in a property, the law allows this interest to be detached from the property, or “overreached” and reattached to money given in exchange for land, so long as the exchange took place by at least two trustees. This was, however, applied not for the purpose of trading property by professional trustees, but against homeowners in City of London Building Society v Flegg. Here two parents, Mr and Mrs Flegg, had given their home to their children, who in turn mortgaged the property and defaulted on the loan. The House of Lords held that because the words of the statute were fulfilled, and the purchase money for the interest in the property (i.e. the loan that the children squandered) had been paid to two trustees, the Fleggs had to give up possession. Lastly, it is possible to lose an interest in land, even if registered, through adverse possession by another person after 12 years under the Limitation Act 1980 sections 15 to 17.
Public property is property, which is dedicated to the use of the public. It is a subset of state property. The term may be used either to describe the use to which the property is put, or to describe the character of its ownership (owned collectively by the population of a state). This is in contrast to private property, owned by an individual person or artificial entities that represent the financial interests of persons, such as corporations. State ownership, also called public ownership, government ownership or state property, are property interests that are vested in the state, rather than an individual or communities.
In the modern representative democracy, “public property” is said to be owned by the people as a commons or held in trust by the government for common benefit. In many Commonwealth realms, such property is said to be owned by the Crown. Examples include Crown land, Crown copyright, and Crown Dependencies.
In the Canada, The Public Debt and Property are under the exclusive Legislative Authority of the Parliament of Canada rather than Queen or local authority, according to the Constitution Acts, 1867 and 1982, article 91.
Municipalisation is the transfer of corporations or other assets to municipal ownership. The transfer may be from private ownership (usually by purchase) or from other levels of government. It is the opposite of privatization and is different from nationalization.
In the U.S., municipalisation often refers to incorporation of an entire county into its municipalities, leaving no unincorporated areas. This generally ends de facto the county’s own home rule, which in most states allows it to act as the municipal service provider in those unincorporated areas. The county is left offering only those services mandated of it by the state constitution, which are generally only extensions of state government like courts and sheriff departments. As with utilities, the county’s assets usually end up being distributed among the cities, though this is less likely if the process is gradual rather than all at once.
Although the formal steps of a contract, conveyance and registration will allow people to acquire legal interests in land, over the course of the twentieth century Parliament, and the courts, slowly recognised that many people have legitimate claims to property, even without following formalities, and even without gaining the consent of a property owner. The institution of a trust has come to play a major role, particularly in family homes, because according to the Law of Property Act 1925 section 53, while declarations of express trusts require signed writing to take effect, resulting and constructive trusts do not. A “resulting” trust is typically recognised when a person has given property to a person without the intention to benefit that person, so the property jumps back to the person it came from. “Constructive” trusts have been recognised by English courts in about eight unrelated circumstances, whenever it is said it would be “unconscionable” that the courts did not recognise properly belonged to the claimant. In the context of family homes, these two types of trust allowed judges to recognise, from around 1970, a spouse’s proprietary right in a home because of the contribution (broadly speaking) to home life. Parliament had enacted the same reform already as a part of family law. In the Matrimonial Proceedings and Property Act 1970 section 37, “where a husband or wife contributes in money or money’s worth” to improve property, a court could recognise an equitable right in it, but also vary the amount to the extent it was deemed just. And under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 section 24, a court was empowered in divorce proceedings to vary the property rights of the parties, especially for the benefit of children, to the extent that was just. In the Civil Partnership Act 2004 sections 65 to 72 and Schedules 5-7 achieved the same for civil partners.
However, for cohabiting couples, with or without children, who are not married or civil partners, only the common law was available to make a claim, and it has been slow to reach a position achieved for married couples under statute. In Gissing v Gissing, a case before the passage of the family law statutes, a married couple had lived, worked and had a child together from 1935 to 1961 when the relationship broke down on his adultery.
Mr Gissing had paid mortgage instalments and the property was in his name, although Mrs Gissing had made some home improvements. Lord Denning MR in the Court of Appeal held that because they had continued life as a joint venture, even though she had made no quantifiable money contribution, nevertheless Mrs Gissing would have a half share in the property under a constructive trust.
The House of Lords reversed this decision, arguing that no “common intention” could be found, as was said to be needed, for her to share in the home’s equity. Despite this, some cases creatively allowed for a constructive trust on the basis of “common intention” if unusual conduct was arguably evidence of wanting to share the home. In Eves v Eves, the Court of Appeal (with Lord Denning MR) held that a lady who broke up a patio with a 14 lb sledgehammer must have been intended to share in the home’s equity. In Grant v Edwards,[87] the Court of Appeal allowed a claim by Ms Grant who was explicitly told by her partner, Mr Edwards, that she could not be included on the house title deeds because it could affect her chances of a divorce proceedings. This was, said the court, apparently evidence that (if Ms Grant had had no divorce proceedings) the couple must have intended to share the house together. However, then in Lloyds Bank plc v Rossetthe House of Lords halted development again. Lord Bridge held that only if (1) a spouse made direct contributions to a home’s purchase price, or (2) a spouse had actually reached some agreement, however uncertain, that a claim for an equitable interest would succeed. This meant that Mrs Rosset, who was not on the title deeds, had made no financial contributions, but who had done much decorating work, could not claim an equitable interest in the home where she lived. This meant that the bank was entitled to repossess the home, following a default on Mr Rosset’s mortgage loan, free from her interest in actual occupation. Nevertheless, if a court did acknowledge a spouse’s contribution to the home, it could “inflate” the interest to whatever size possible (as under the 1970 and 1973 Acts). So in Midland Bank plc v Cooke the Court of Appeal held that although a joint gift of £1100 to Mr and Mrs Cooke only represented 6% of the home’s value, Mrs Cooke’s interest could be raised to one half. This meant that Midland Bank was entitled only to half the equity value of the home after Mr Cooke defaulted on a loan with them.
The most recent set of cases appear, however, to have moved further. In Stack v Dowden a couple with four children who lived together for 18 years had registered a house in both their names. However, Ms Dowden had contributed more money. She claimed that the presumption of equal ownership should be displaced and that she should therefore have a share that was greater than half, and the House of Lords agreed that she owned 65% of the beneficial interest. Although not concerning the same point, Lord Walker noted that the law since Lord Bridge’s decision in Lloyds Bank plc v Rosset “has moved on”, regarding the question of what matters in quantifying people’s shares in a home. The majority also remarked that in family situations, constructive trusts provided more utility where the court had greater flexibility to quantify people’s interests free from tangible financial contributions, and that resulting trusts were more appropriate to commercial relationships, where the quantification of a person’s interest would more match financial contributions. Furthermore in Kernott v Jones, Ms Jones and Mr Kernott had had two children and were both on the registered title. However, from 1993 to 2008, Mr Kernott had moved out, and Ms Jones was raising the children, paying the mortgage and the house expenses. In TLATA 1996 section 14 proceedings, Court of Appeal upheld his claim for 50% of the property, arguing that with absolutely no evidence of any intention otherwise, it could not be the courts’ role to “impute” the intentions of the parties. The Supreme Court reversed this, finding that Ms Jones did indeed own 90% of the home’s equity, and this could readily be inferred from all the circumstances. In the Privy Council, in Abbott v Abbott Baroness Hale more squarely affirmed that the “parties’ whole course of conduct in relation to the property must be taken into account in determining their shared intentions as to its ownership.” However, it still remains unclear to what extent (and why) the law on cohabiting couples, after four decades, remains different from that for married couples under the 1970 and 1973 Acts.
Proprietary estoppel is the third principle mechanism to acquire rights over property, seen particularly in the case of land. Unlike a contract or gift, which depend on consent, or resulting and constructive trusts that depend primarily on the fact of contribution, a proprietary estoppel arises when a person has been given a clear assurance, it was reasonable of them to rely on the assurance, and they have acted to their detriment. This threefold pattern of proprietary estoppel (clear assurance, reasonable reliance and substantial detriment) makes it consistent with its partner in the law of obligations, “promissory estoppel”. Although English law has not yet recognised promissory estoppel as giving rise to a cause of action, (as has been done under the American Restatement (Second) of Contracts §90) in Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row Management Ltd Lord Scott remarked that proprietary estoppel should be seen as a sub-species of promissory estoppel. In all cases it allows people who act on others’ assurances about legal rights, even without them attaining express agreement. For example, in Dillwyn v Llwellyn, a son was held to have acquired a house from his father because he was given a written notice that he would, despite never having completed a deed for conveyance, after the son spent time and money improving the property. And in Crabb v Arun DC a farmer acquired the right to a path over the council’s land, because they had assured him that if he sold off one portion an access point would remain. In all cases, the minimum pattern of an assurance, reliance and some form of detriment is present.
Proprietary estoppel case law has, however, divided on the question of what kind of assurance and what kind of reliance must be present. In Cobbe v Yeoman’s Row Management Ltd, a property developer claimed an interest in a group of Knightsbridge flats after his expense in obtaining council planning permission. Mr Cobbe had made an oral agreement with the flat owner, Mrs Lisle-Mainwaring, to get the flats at £12m, but once permission was obtained, the owner broke her oral promise. Even so, in the House of Lords Mr Cobbe failed in his claim for anything more than the expense (£150,000) of getting the planning, because in this commercial context it was clear that formal deeds were needed for completion of any deal. By contrast, in Thorner v Majors, David (a second cousin) worked on Peter’s farm for 30 years and believed he would inherit it. This probably was intended but after Peter fell out with other relatives, he destroyed his will, leaving David with nothing. Even though no specific assurance, and only some vague conduct indicating an assurance, was present, the House of Lords held that David had a good proprietary estoppel claim. Lord Hoffmann remarked that if a reasonable person could understand, however oblique and allusive, that an assurance was given, a legal right would accrue. The tendency of the cases is therefore to recognise claims more in the domestic context, which less formal assurances are common, and less so in the commercial context, where formality is normal.
A difficult issue, however, in awarding a remedy for estoppel is that unlike a contract it is not always apparent that a claimant should receive the full measure of what they had expected. By contrast, the factual pattern of estoppels, which often appear something very close to a contract, often seem to warrant more than an award for damages to compensate claimants for the amount of detriment, or loss, as in a tort case. In Jennings v Rice, Robert Walker LJ, tackled the issue by emphasising that the purpose of the court’s jurisdiction was to avoid an unconscionable result, and to ensure that a remedy was based on proportionality. Here, Mr Jennings had worked as a gardener for a Mrs Royle since the 1970s, but the administrator of her estate had no will. Mr Jennings had been told he “would be alright” and more so that “this will all be yours one day”. The Court of Appeal resolved, however, that not the full estate, worth £1.285m, but only £200,000 would be awarded in view of the actual detriment incurred by Mr Jennings and the uncertainty of what his assurances really meant. In relation to third parties, the remedy for proprietary estoppel has been confirmed to bind others by the Land Registration Act 2002 section 116.
The most contentious method of acquiring property, albeit one that has played a huge role in the history of English land, is adverse possession. Historically, if someone possessed land for long enough, it was thought that this in itself justified acquisition of a good title. This meant that while English land was continually conquered, pillaged, and stolen by various factions, lords or barons throughout the middle ages, those who could show they possessed land long enough would not have their title questioned. A more modern function has been that land which is disused or neglected by an owner may be converted into another’s property if continual use is made. Squatting in England has been a way for land to be efficiently utilised, particularly in periods of economic decline. Before the Land Registration Act 2002, if a person had possessed land for 12 years, then at common law, the previous owner’s right of action to eject the “adverse possessor” would expire. The common legal justification was that under the Limitation Act 1980, just like a cause of action in contract or tort had to be used within a time limit, so did an action to recover land. This promoted the finality of litigation and the certainty of claims. Time would start running when someone took exclusive possession of land, or part of it, and intended to possess it adversely to the interests of the current owner. Provided the common law requirements of “possession” that was “adverse” were fulfilled, after 12 years, the owner would cease to be able to assert a claim. However, in the LRA 2002 adverse possession of registered land became much harder. The rules for unregistered land remained as before. But under the LRA 2002 Schedule 6, paragraphs 1 to 5, after 10 years the adverse possessor was entitled to apply to the registrar to become the new registered owner. The registrar would then contact the registered title holder and notify them of the application. If no proceedings were launched for two years to eject the adverse possessor, only then would the registrar transfer title. Before, a land owner could simply lose title without being aware of it or notified. This was the rule because it indicated the owner had never paid sufficient attention to how the land was in fact being used, and therefore the former owner did not deserve to keep it. Before 2002, time was seen to cure everything. The rule’s function was to ensure land was used efficiently. The darker side, was that this idea was also very convenient for an age when land was often taken by force, and when doctrines like terra nullius were espoused by imperialists as justifications for colonisation in British Empire.
Before the considerable hurdle of giving a registered owner notice was introduced, the particular requirements of adverse possession were reasonably straight forward. First, under Schedule 1, paragraphs 1 and 8 of the Limitation Act 1980, the time when adverse possession began was when “possession” was taken. This had to be more than something temporary or transitory, such as simply storing goods on a land for a brief period.[128] But “possession” did not require actual occupation. So in Powell v McFarlane, it was held to be “possession” when Mr Powell, from age 14, let his cows roam into Mr McFarlane’s land. The second requirement, however, was that there needed to be an intention to possess the land. Mr Powell lost his claim because simply letting his cows roam was an equivocal act: it was only later that there was evidence he intended to take possession, for instance by erecting signs on the land and parking a lorry. But this had not happened long enough for the 12 year time limit on McFarlane’s claim to have expired. Third, possession is not considered “adverse” if the person is there with the owner’s consent. For example, in BP Properties Ltd v Buckler, Dillon LJ held that Mrs Buckler could not claim adverse possession over land owned by BP because BP had told her she could stay rent free for life. Fourth, under the Limitation Act 1980 sections 29 and 30, the adverse possessor must not have acknowledged the title of the owner in any express way, or the clock starts running again. However, the courts have interpreted this requirement flexibly. In JA Pye (Oxford) Ltd v Graham, Mr and Mrs Graham had been let a part of Mr Pye’s land, and then the lease had expired. Mr Pye refused to renew a lease, on the basis that this might disturb getting planning permission. In fact the land remained unused, Mr Pye did nothing, while the Grahams continued to retain a key to the property and used it as part of their farm. At the end of the limitation period, they claimed the land was theirs. They had in fact offered to buy a licence from Mr Pye, but the House of Lords held that this did not amount to an acknowledgement of title that would deprive them of a claim. Having lost in the UK courts, Mr Pye took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that his business should receive £10 million in compensation because it was a breach of his right under ECHR Protocol 1, article 1 to “peaceful enjoyment of possessions”. The Court rejected this, holding that it was within a member state’s margin of appreciation to determine the relevant property rules. Otherwise, a significant limit on the principle in the case of leases is that adverse possession actions will only succeed against the leaseholder, and not the freeholder once the lease has expired. However the main limitation remains that the 2002 legislation appears to have emasculated the principle of adverse possession, because the Registrar now effectively informs owners of the steps to be taken to stop adverse possession in its tracks.
While the typical content of “land law” texts in England or the United Kingdom concerns the content, creation and protection of interests in property in land, the practical and social significance of land extends to the way it is used. Historically, land was the most important source of social wealth. Over the 19th century its role in preserving wealth was to a large extent eclipsed by corporations and the managed fund, however land remains vital for housing, economic development, for agriculture and extraction of natural resources, and as its part of the environment.
The acquisition of private rights aside, public regulation of land use has sought to mediate the competing interests among competing stakeholders. In housing, the need of people to have a home is balanced between the interests of landlords in seeking rents for profit, and governments in building and maintaining homes. Housing has remained a residual source of private investment income, which grew in the run up to the subprime mortgage crisis and after, while taxation of property remains a significant source of income for HM Treasury. Particularly since 1909, new national planning strategies were used to improve the quality of building, and distribute urban development in a way that reflected local priorities. Environmental protection policies limit the ways that land can be used, and the effects its use can have upon local communities. Finally, agriculture and resource extraction played a smaller part in the UK’s economy than before but, along with a common strategy around the European Union, these industries benefit from a system of subsidies and market regulations intended to make land use sustainable.
The right to property is one of the most controversial human rights, both in terms of its existence and interpretation. The controversy about the definition of the right meant that it was not included in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Controversy centers upon who is deemed to have property rights protected (eg human beings or also corporations), the type of property which is protected (property used for the purpose of consumption or production), and the reasons for which property can be restricted (for instance, for regulations, taxation or nationalization in the public interest). In all human rights instruments, either implicit or express restrictions exist on the extent to which property is protected. Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) enshrines the right to property as follows:
“(1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
(2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property
The right to private property was a crucial demand in early quests for political freedom and equality, and against feudal control of property. Property can serve as the basis for the entitlements that ensure the realization of the right to an adequate standard of living and it was only property owners which were initially granted civil and political rights, such as the right to vote. Because not everybody is a property owner, the right to work was enshrined to allow everybody to attain an adequate standard of living.
Today discrimination on the basis of property ownership is recognized as a serious threat to the equal enjoyment of human rights by all and non-discrimination clauses in international human rights instruments frequently include property as a ground on the basis of which discrimination is prohibited (see the right to equality before the law). The protection of private property may come into conflict with economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights, such as the right to freedom of expression. To mitigate this, the right to property is commonly limited to protect the public interest. In addition many states maintain systems of communal and collective ownership. Property rights have frequently been regarded as preventing the realization of human rights for all, through for example slavery and the exploitation of others.
The majority of all lands in Canada are held by governments in the name of the monarch and are called Crown Lands. About 89% of Canada’s land area (8,886,356 km²) is Crown Land, which may either be federal (41%) or provincial (48%); the remaining 11% is privately owned. Most federal Crown land is in the Canadian territories (Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Yukon), and is administered on behalf of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada; only 4% of land in the provinces is federally controlled, largely in the form of National Parks, Indian reserves, or Canadian Forces bases. In contrast, provinces hold much of their territory as provincial Crown Land, which may be held as Provincial Parks or wilderness.
The largest class of landowners are the provincial governments, who hold all unclaimed land in their jurisdiction in the name of the Crown (Crown Lands). Over 90% of the sprawling boreal forest of Canada is provincial Crown land. Provincial lands account for 60% of the area of the province of Alberta, 94% of the land in British Columbia, 95% of Newfoundland and Labrador, and 48% of New Brunswick.
The largest single landowner in Canada by far, and by extension one of the world’s largest, is the federal government. The bulk of the federal government’s lands are in the vast northern territories where Crown Lands are vested in the federal, rather than territorial, government. In addition the federal government owns national parks, First Nations reserves and national defence installations.
Until the Natural Resources Acts of 1930 the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, and to a limited extent British Columbia, did not control Crown Lands or subsoil rights within their boundaries, which instead rested with the federal government. This deprived them of the benefits of royalties from mining, oil and gas, or forestry (stumpage) within their boundaries. This was a major source of Western alienation at the time.
In Canadian law all lands are subject to the Crown, and this has been true since Britain acquired much of Eastern Canada from France by the Treaty of Paris (1763). However, the British and Canadian authorities recognized that indigenous peoples already on the lands had a prior claim, Aboriginal title, which was not extinguished by the arrival of the Europeans. This is in direct contrast to the situation in Australia where the continent was declared Terra nullius, or vacant land, and was seized from Aboriginal peoples without compensation. In consequence, all of Canada, save a section of southern Quebec exempted by the Royal Proclamation of 1763, is subject to Aboriginal title. Native groups historically negotiated treaties in which they traded tenure to the land for annuities and certain legal exemptions and privileges. Most of Western Canada was secured in this way by the government via the Numbered Treaties of 1871 to 1921, though not all groups signed treaties. In particular, in most of British Columbia Aboriginal title has never been transferred to the Crown. Native groups, either those that never signed treaties or those that are dissatisfied with the execution of treaties can lodge Aboriginal land claims against the government.
The Crown also gave tenure to much of Canada to a private company, the Hudson’s Bay Company which from 1670 to 1870 had a legal and economic monopoly on all land in the Rupert’s Land territory (identical to the drainage basin of Hudson Bay), and later the Columbia District and the North-Western Territory (now British Columbia, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut) were added to the HBC’s lands, making it one of the largest private landowners in world history. In 1868 the Imperial Parliament passed the Rupert’s Land Act that saw most of this land ownership transferred to the Dominion of Canada.
After Canada acquired the HBC’s land in 1870, it used the land as an economic tool to promote development. Under the Dominion Lands Act system of 1871, huge areas were given to the Canadian Pacific Railway to fund its transcontinental line, other areas were reserved for school boards to be sold to fund education, and the rest was distributed to settlers for agriculture. Settlers paid a $10 fee and agreed to make some improvements within a specified time for 180 acres (73 ha) of land. This was at a time of extreme land shortage in many agricultural areas of Europe, and aided in the rapid settlement of Western Canada. In areas where ranching was preferred to field agriculture (e.g. southern Alberta), large areas were leased to cattle barons at a nominal rate, allowing the development of an industrial-scale beef export industry centred on the city of Calgary.
Lands given out in the early years of the Dominion Lands Act included rights to the subsoil, including all minerals, oil, or natural gas found below the property. Later grants (after circa 1900) did not include subsoil rights. As a result, in the leading petroleum producing province of Alberta, 81% of the subsurface mineral rights are owned by the provincial Crown. The remaining 19% are owned by the federal Crown, individuals, or corporations.
What has not been addressed is the Letters Patent and the significance of same. The next Chapter will delve into that and address the rights thereto and the effects there of, as well as the over stepping of the current Provincial administration.

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