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Classification of property

This section will consider the law concerning personal property. Personal property can be distinguished from real property, in that real property refers to land. Personal property is easier to trade, and the owner cannot eject others from personal property.

Personal property can be subdivided into chattels real and chattels personal. Chattels real refers to personal property which is treated as real property, such as leases. Chattels personal, proper personal property, will be dealt with in this section.

Chattels personal can be further subdivided into choses in possession and choses in action, where ‘chose’ means ‘thing’. Choses in possession are ‘things’ that can be touched. Choses in action cannot be touched. Their existence can only be enforced through legal action. To make some choses in action easier to deal with, they are represented by a document. The chose in action is then known as a documentary intangible. For example, a bill of lading is a document which allows the rights to goods on a ship to be negotiated whilst the goods are in transit. Any chose in action not classed as a documentary intangible is known as a pure intangible. Pure intangibles, such as debts or intellectual property rights cannot be possessed or sold, they can only be assigned.

According to Swift v Dairywise Farm [2000], a milk quota is a documentary intangible; but a trust under an exemption clause, according to Southern Water Authority v Carey [1985] is not a documentary intangible and so cannot be held on trust...

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