SOAS University of London

School of Law

Common Law, Equitable and Comparative Property 1: Property Interests

Module Code:
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year

Property is fundamental to the entire legal system. Indeed, the argument has been made (by Jeremy Bentham) that “property and law are born together, and  die together. Before laws were made there was no property; take away laws, and property ceases.” Property interacts with contract law, criminal law, the law of tort, and the protection of property rights is one main raison d’être of the State.

 This does not mean of course, that property is wholly and only a creation of law in a restricted sense. As we will see throughout the course, property and what constitutes ‘ownership’ has evolved throughout history, and is the product of cultural values, economics, and social relations, among other things. There is, in other words, nothing “natural” about property and different forms of ownership. Property, often understood as “objects” owned by people, is better understood as relations between people and resources, governed by the State, with varying degrees of control and power at stake.

 In this course, apart from introducing the theoretical underpinnings of the idea of property, this course also  deals with the legal rules pertaining to property in England and Wales.  It will go through the idea of ownership, estates, equitable interests in property, trusts of land, registration and the transfer of interests and title.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this course a student will be able to:

  • Have acquired knowledge and critical understanding of the concept and principles of property, and an understanding of the ways in which the concept and principles have evolved
  • Understand the underlying social, economic, political, philosophical and moral context that shapes property law and be able to apply this critical understanding in other contexts
  • State and explain the role of formalities and the workings of property mechanisms including overreaching, proprietary estoppel and unregistered/registered title to land
  • State and explain substantive elements of major property doctrines including the express trust, unincorprated associations, charities, adverse possession and easements
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the different methods used in analysing and arguing about property law
  • Have an understanding of the limits of their own knowledge, and an appreciation of how this might shape their analyses and interpretations of the subject
  • Demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate information, arguments and analysis in a variety of forms
  • Have the ability to proceed to further and more complex study in the field of property law, and take on greater responsibility for their own learning in this regard


  • Weekly 2 hour lecture
  • 1 hour tutorial (please see syllabus for details of when tutorials are scheduled)

Method of assessment

Oral Presentation (Moot): 20%
Unseen written exam: 80%

Suggested reading

  • CUP Law in Context series: Graham Moffat's Trusts Law; Clarke & Kohler's Property Law


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules