updated on 19 April 2022
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This LCN Says is part of a series looking at The University of Law’s (ULaw) Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) manuals that have been specifically designed to support law students in their SQE1 exams. This LCN Says will look at what students can expect to learn in the Land Law manual.
What is land law?
The statutory definition of land law is defined in section 205 (1)(ix) of the Law of Property Act (LPA) 1925 as: “land of any tenure, and mines and minerals, whether or not held apart from the surface, buildings or parts of buildings.”
Land law in a nutshell is a set of rules that govern the land and anything attached to it, including trees or buildings. A lawyer working in land law will typically fight or defend disputes over land matters like rights of way and boundary issues that involve landowners, private individuals or sometimes the government.
An important part of a property lawyer’s job is to go through deeds and land registry records to figure out which party owns what and negotiate property transactions. They are also involved in structuring arrangements for conveyancing and preparing contracts.
What does land law cover?
Land law covers the nature of land. While preparing for the SQE1, you will learn about the distinction between a fixture and a chattel, identifying estates and interests in land and being able to explain how estates and interests in land are validly created and transferred.
Land law also covers the differences between legal and beneficial ownership of land, the two forms of co-ownership, the situations in which severance of a joint tenancy in equity may occur, what implied trusts are and when they may arise and disputes resolved under TOLATA (1996).
Additionally, land law includes leases, mortgages and covenants. Leases are when an owner allocates land use to a new owner for a period of time. The law recognises that sometimes the owner may simply be giving a licence for their property to be used, which in theory creates only a personal right.
A mortgage describes the money advanced by a lender to a borrower to help them purchase a property. The lender (mortgagee) provides money by way of a loan and, in return, the borrower (mortgagor) provides security by creating a mortgage over the property in favour of the lender. A mortgage enables the lender to enforce its security against the borrower.
Covenants involve the rights and duties between neighbours; for example, an agreement that a neighbour will not build on a piece of land.
The importance of land law
You might not realise it, but land law will come in handy at some point in your life – for example, when you want to buy a house you will need to take out a mortgage. Even if you don’t need to know land law to buy a house, doing something as simple as building on a piece of your neighbour’s land or cutting down their overhanging tree is related to land law because it involves someone else’s property. Land law also covers restrictive and freehold covenants which involve the rights and duties between neighbours.
Co-ownership is another important area of land law which materialises in two key forms – joint tenancies and tenancies in common. In a joint tenancy, the law assumes that the owners have equal shares and allows for a right of survivorship where, if a owner dies, their share will automatically pass to the other surviving owner(s).
In comparison, with a tenancy in common, each owner has a share in a property and there’s no right to survivorship. Often co-owners of a property can get into an argument that requires the law to step in to decide who can live on a property or when it can be sold.
Why study land law?
Although land law isn’t always as exciting or lucrative as commercial law, it’s a practice area that thrives during economic booms. This is because land is an immovable asset so there will always be a market to buy, lease or sell property. Plus, land plays a vital role in sustaining economic growth because it enables the government to collect property taxes, which finance public services. Secure property rights and access to land is also instrumental in expanding existing businesses and opening the doors of employment.
In the words of Philip Rainey QC, head of chambers at Tanfield Chambers, “Studying land law during your law degree or conversion course may have seemed boring and difficult, but don’t assume that the reality of practising it is the same.”
If you’re interested in this practice area, read this Barrister’s practice area profile on property law.
If you're interested in other areas of law and the accompanying SQE guides by ULaw, then read:
Read the latest information about what is happening with the SQE via our SQE Hub.
Christianah Babajide (she/her) is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.