A proprietary interest is a right in some property, be it realty, chattel, or chose in action. Proprietary interests can be divided into title of various sorts, into liens, and into miscellaneous interests such as leases, charters, and tenancies. The following applies in England and Wales. Remember kids: Never take legal advice from some dude you've met.


As webster 1913 so accurately notes, title is a right to possess. Title is "Good against the world", meaning that the possessor can't be deprived of it by unlawful actions, except where it is sold to a bona fide purchaser for value; such an individual is someone who buys the title for valuable consideration, without notice, either actual or constructive, that the vendor does not have title. When this happens, the (original) owner usually has several ways to get ill on the ass of the vendor. It does, however come in a number of types: Equitable title, posessory title, and legal title.

Equitable title is ownership that can only be enforced in equity if separate from the legal title. Note that this creates a trust. Such an interest may be taxable, and is still subject to the normal regulations for disposal, such as the rules for interests in land. The essence of an equitable title is that it is the right to enjoy the use of the good in question, although not necessarily the right to manage it, or to sue upon it in the normal way.

Legal title,. sometimes known as freehold is the right to dispose of and manage the item in question, and may be enforced by common law actions. This right may be curtailed, as where one is a trustee (has not the equitable title). This title is the fullest kind there is, as no-one has a better claim to have the stuff in the long term (except where they do, as for instance trust beneficiaries). The title may be incumbered by any other number of interests, which are basically all of the others here. This is yer basic property right, OK?

Possessory title is the right to possess something for a time. This pretty much covers all proprietary rights that allow you dispose of or enjoy something that isn't one of the above two. Note that the ownership of the title may be separate at law and equity, which is basically any of the following except liens and their ilk (Are you confused yet?). This is important, because where one with a possessory title sues in conversion, they may not extinguish the right of the owner to sue, or they may (as with a bailee).

Tenancy, charter, and lease

Frankly, these are far to complex to go into in any detail here. Check the nodes for details. In general, these are property rights which hold beyond the contract which created them, so that if the freehold is sold, the posessor still has the right to enjoy and dispose as before. The only difference for them, is to whom the reversionary interest belongs, although the normal rules regarding the assignment of a chose in action applies, so if rent is being paid, they may have to pay the new owner instead of the old. Briefly, the difference between an assured shorthold tenancy and a short lease are that the lease is transferable, and apart from the protection of the reversionary interest of the lessor, and any restrictive covenants in the leasing instrument, the right is much like ownership, although only for a time. Meanwhile, the assured shorthold is essentially just the hiring of the property for a time, giving the tenant a much reduced right of enjoyment, and the possibility of being evicted if they break the terms of the tenancy. Both of these are defined as interests in land for the purposes of formalities concerning their disposition.

(A feudal tenancy is much like a perpetual lease, with the exception that failure to perform feudal duties would allow eviction).

Reversionary interests and bailment

These are property rights to have something back after someone else has finished with it. Typically the owner of a reversionary interest will have the choice of suing the tortfeasor who has damaged his property, or of suing the current occupier, or possibly the person to whom it was first transferred. In the case of leases, the current posessor is liable; in the case of bailment, the bailee is liable, and must sue in his turn to recover damages or possession.

Liens, equities, and other such nonsense

A lien is a right to restrain or affect the disposition of some property, other than as a benficiary, or under a restrictive covenant; they typically exist where one has a charge or mortgage over some property.

The term "equities" may refer to any random proprietary rights affecting a title, as in the phrase "take subject to the equities". Note however, the operation of Proprietary estoppel, an actual equitable measure that affects property, and acts much like a lien, a trust, or a tenancy. Obviously, I would not cover such a topic here.

Restrictive Covenants represent a genuine exception to the rule of contractual privilege. Where a piece of property is sold subject to some restriction, eg, that it not be painted a different colour, when the property is sold, the purchaser takes subject to that equity, and as such, the original vendor (or their personal representatives) may sue for the breach of that covenant. This may well be why you can't have a washing line without your resident's association getting heavy on your arse.

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