Property law in the United Kingdom is divided into three regions – Scotland, England & Wales, and Northern Ireland. The property laws of Scotland are quite different from that of England and Wales. However the property laws of Northern Ireland and England are fairly similar. Scottish law had originated and was derived from the Scottish feudal law system. However it has undergone extensive adaptations and changes under the modern statute. English and Welsh law originated and were derived from the English common law and English traditions. Many people are under the false notion that the property laws of England were derived from Roman law.
Under the English law is briefly divided into “personal” and “real.” This demarcation of into personal versus real is synonymous to dividing the same into immovable and movable property. This concept of movable property originated from the Roman era, where Roman law considered that personal belongings would essentially include goods, money, and all other movables which the owner may carry with him wherever he sees fit.
This essential demarcation between real and personal property still prevails in England and is characterized by the following:
• In real property there can only be limited ownership
• Personal property cannot include estate and can be considered to complete ownership
• Personal property cannot be subjected to the other incidents of real – mainly lease, renting, dowers or escheat.
• Upon the demise of the owner, in case of him dying intestate, not having left behind a will intestate real property will descend to his legal heirs, whereas all other belongings will be distributed as per the Statute of Distributions.
• Real property needs to be transferred through a deed, whereas personal property does not require any such formal approach for transfer.