• Nicholas Simmons

What Property?

For 20 years, readers of the Centralian Advocate looked forward to the Friday edition. Therein Povey Stirk Lawyers published a 300 word tale of fiction based on legally newsworthy events.

The following is a sample of these blogs

2 September 2015

Property is a term that is used commonly in everyday life, and most of us would assume that we know what it means. But when pressed, it is not easy to define precisely what property actually is. Even the Australian High Court has acknowledged that the term is rather broad and malleable.

So, on the one hand you could adopt the attitude of a former US Supreme Court Justice when called upon to define hard-core pornography: I can’t define it but I know it when I see it. Or, on the other hand, if a definition is sought, at its most basic level property is a valuable right or interest in a thing (not a particularly technical term).

A good way to understand property is the general common law classification framework that has developed over the years.

At its most basic level, property is often divided into two main groups: real property and personal property.

Real property is essentially land and includes both the actual tangible land (the land itself along with the buildings and fixtures attached to it) and also intangible rights in land (such as a right of way easement).

Personal property, helpfully, is all property that isn’t real property. It often goes by the term ‘chattels’ and can be divided into two main groups: chattels real and chattels personal.

Chattels real are personal rights in land less than full ownership (such as a residential or commercial lease).

Chattels personal, again helpfully, is everything not covered above. Like real property, chattels personal include both tangible objects (movable objects capable of actual possession, such as furniture, clothes, jewellery and motor vehicles) and intangible rights (things incapable of physical possession, such as the credit balance of your bank account, shares in companies, interests in partnerships and intellectual property rights).

Disclaimer: This document provides general information and is not legal advice. While we endeavour to ensure the information is correct at the date of publication, laws frequently change. If anything in this post is relevant to you, please contact us for advice on your specific situation