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Bundle of Rights in Property Law: Definition & History

Instructor: Tisha Collins Batis

Tisha is a licensed real estate agent in Texas. She holds bachelor's in legal studies and a master's degree in criminal justice.

This lesson will discuss the bundle of rights in property law and will provide a summary of how these rights came to be in America. Upon completion, the reader should have knowledge of the bundle of rights and the history behind it.

What is a Bundle of Rights Anyway?

Jovita is looking for a house to buy. Her real estate agent has taken her to several, and she found one that she really likes. It's on two acres, but the seller doesn't want to sell the portion of the property that has a large shop on it. The driveway on the property leads to the shop at the back. Jovita finds out that if she buys the property, she can buy the portion with the driveway but she would have to allow the owner of the shop to drive on the driveway any time he wants so he can get to the shop. How is this fair? If she buys the property, isn't it hers and hers alone? In this situation, Jovita would have to provide an easement and she doesn't understand what it is. Her agent tells her that as a property owner, she will have some rights but not all rights to the property.

Fence Separating Property Lines
fence

Don't I Own My Own Land?

A bundle of rights in property law addresses the rights that owners actually have to their real property. Essentially, property owners have the right to control their property, exclude others from entering the property, enjoy the property, sell or transfer the property, and finally possess the property. This seems like the owner would have every right to their property, right? Not always. There are exceptions and there are some things the list doesn't cover.

Exceptions

Jovita can control her new property; she can do anything she wants on it as long as that activity isn't illegal. However, if she lives in an area with a homeowner's association she has to abide by those rules as well. She can exclude others from entering her property, unless there is an easement in place. For example, the shop owner can use the driveway. There are easements in place for utilities and even for air traffic as well. If her property is close to an airport, that means she couldn't build over a certain height. She can sell or transfer her property (the right to disposition). However, if she has a mortgage or other lien on the property, those have to be paid off before the property changes hands. She also has the right to possess the property, which should explain itself. But if she doesn't pay her property taxes, then she could actually lose possession.

Water Rights

Jovita also won't own any water that is on or adjacent to her land. She can use a reasonable amount of the water, but she can't sell it as if it was hers. Perhaps she needs to dig a well. This can be done with the proper permits and comes under the definition of correlative use (which allows her to use underground water). However, she doesn't actually own that water. If water is from a source like a river, she would have riparian rights to this water. If the water is from a source like the ocean, she would have littoral rights to the water. Basically, she could enjoy and use the shore. Water rights are very specific and are rights, not ownership.

Who Owns the Water?
water

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