Relative Title and Deemed Ownership in English Personal Property Law

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 35 (1):31-54 (2015)
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This article is concerned with two elementary propositions of English property law: in general, a person acquires a title in respect of a tangible chattel if and when he or she obtains possession of it; and titles are relative. Neither claim is as straightforward as it seems. Much hinges on the answer to one question: is a title a property right, or is it something else? A number of prominent property law scholars have claimed that, for the purposes of and, a title is indeed a property right. This article claims that there is a plausible alternative, one that is committed to the view that in English law, having possession of a chattel is a condition of the law deeming a person to be its owner. It argues that this assertion is supported by an important line of cases. And it maintains that, if that assertion is kept in mind, one can make better sense of the otherwise obscure view that having possession of a chattel is a condition of a person acquiring a ‘claim’ to the ownership of it and hence a title that is not a property right



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