Ownership

When we speak of ‘ownership’ of property, either land or other property, we are normally referring to the legal title. Although this may well be the only ownership which exists in respect of property, the student must keep in mind that at times there will additionally be an equitable ownership in respect of the property.  Thus, it is obvious that the phrase ‘ownership’ may actually be of wider meaning than the legal title in the property and therefore we must understand the nature of both. The ‘legal title’ in property is that title which is recognised as existing at common law.  i.e. ‘at law’ as opposed to ‘in equity’. The common law in England was the original word of the King when the law became decentralised after the Norman Conquest 1066.  So called ‘common law’ as it was unenacted i.e. uncodified and was applied by the King’s Judges to all the land in the same manner.   The judicial interpretation of the King’s word has been (and still is) the basis of the development of English law. Although today we do have enacted law (Acts of Parliament) the vast majority of England’s common law or unenacted law has not been supplanted.  Thus, English law is still today a common law system and in this way it differs from the legal systems in many other countries where all law is enacted. Any right (or liability) recognised by the common law is a right ‘at law’ and a person is usually entitled to enforce his rights/liabilities at law. It can be seen, therefore, that the legal title in property is the ownership as recognised by the common law.  Thus, the person who holds the legal title is the ‘owner’ of the property in question and may normally exercise his own will over that property, i.e. the owner may sell his ship.