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#1-Ownership and The Legal Concept of Title, Or, "That's Mine"

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

“Ownership is the bundle of rights allowing one to use, manage, and enjoy property, including the right to convey it to others. Ownership implies the right to possess a thing, regardless of any actual or constructive control. Ownership rights are general, permanent, and heritable.” Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition. 1990.

So, how do you know someone owns something? One piece of evidence is that you see a person in possession and control of the thing on a regular basis. But is this enough? Not when possession and control are challenged in some way. For instance, what happens if someone keeps entering your home (your Ex friend who once lived with you)? Typically, you will assert yourself and tell your Ex to “get out of my house”. Your Ex refuses, so you call the police. The police arrive and ask “are you the owner”? Then the officer calls dispatch to confirm the answer via tax and deed records. Once ownership is confirmed, the officer escorts your Ex off the property.

Ownership is made up of behavior amounting to dominion and control i.e., the right of possession. Possession is supported by written evidence of ownership or permission to use. These various rights, when bundled, become “title” to the thing. The holder of title can exclude all others from the thing owned. If you can exclude others, you own it.

Title as a concept is made up of “legal” and “equitable” strands. Legal title is determined by demonstrative evidence that suggests ownership (paperwork) such as a deed, lease, or bill of sale. The right to use, possess, and control the thing, i.e., to benefit from it, is based on equitable title. One person may hold both strands as a bundle. The bundle may be split between two different people, one holding the legal title strand and the other the equitable title strand.

For example, the person named in a deed as the owner of property may also be the same person who possesses and controls the house on the property. On the other hand, the owner named in the deed, may have leased the property to a third party, who holds equitable title – exclusive possession and control for a term of time.

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