Sale and purchase

Forms of real estate ownership

What are the categories of property right that can be acquired? Are there any interests in real estate other than exclusive ownership?

Angola

Angola

Private ownership of land itself is recognized but there is no legal means of contracting to transfer smaller land rights (such as the right of customary dominium utile, right of civil dominium utile, surface right) and right to temporary occupation, is common.

Australia

Australia

Each Australian state and territory has its own separate legislative regime in relation to the ownership of land and the various available tenures.

An interest in land can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. Freehold is the highest category of land ownership in Australia and effectively confers absolute ownership. The land can be held outright by one owner or a part interest or share can be held.

Leasehold land confers rights of exclusive possession and use, pursuant to specific legislation. Some leasehold interests are ‘perpetual’ in nature, and others are granted for fixed periods of time.

A real estate owner can also give non-exclusive rights to third parties to use their land, such as granting an easement for a right of way. If registered, easements are binding on successors in title to the burdened and benefited land.

Belgium

Belgium

The most extensive interest in real estate after full ownership is a usufruct, or a right to use the property concerned and to benefit from its profits and/or products. This excludes the right to transfer or demolish the property. A usufruct is always linked to the property itself, ending either on the death of the individual granted the right, or after 30 years if a legal entity has been granted the right.

Other real estate rights include the 'right to use or to inhabit' property. This is similar to the right of usufruct, but cannot be transferred since it is only granted to a specific individual.

Long leases (emphytéose/erfpacht) can be granted, giving the right to use and build on real estate in return for the payment of an annual ground rent. A long lease is normally granted for a minimum of 27 years and a maximum of 99 years.

Building rights (superficie/opstal) can also be granted, allowing buildings to be erected on a property. When the building rights granted come to an end, the property owner will acquire the rights to these, either with or without payment. Building rights can be granted for a maximum renewable period of 50 years. Both long leases and building rights are commonly used in tax-driven agreements. Some provisions of the Act governing building rights have been amended by the Act of 25 April 2014.

Finally, the right of 'easement' (servitude/erfdienstbaarheid) allows one property to be used in order to facilitate the use of another property. Easements can remain in force for unlimited or limited periods of time. The former are legally linked to the right of ownership of the property concerned (for example, easements to refrain from building on real estate located next to airports, or to gain access to public roads). The latter can be agreed between parties. 

Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia-Herzegovina

In addition to ownership rights, there are also:

  • construction rights 
  • leases 
  • charges securing financial obligations 
  • mining rights 
  • easements, and 
  • concessions.

It should be noted that in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina the rights to use and to dispose of real estate exist as a result of the previous regime, when state ownership prevented individuals or legal entities from owning the real estate that they occupied and used. Under current regulations, these rights to use and dispose of real estate can be converted into ownership, but this can be a slow process.

Canada

Canada

Property rights fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces of Canada and each province or territory has its own legislative scheme governing the ownership of land.

An interest in land may be either a freehold interest or a leasehold interest. A fee simple interest, a type of freehold interest, is the highest category of ownership in Canada and effectively confers absolute ownership. A leasehold interest is an interest less than freehold and is characterized by a right of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited or terminable period of time.

An owner of an interest in land can also give rights to third parties, such as granting an easement for a right of way. Easements are typically non-exclusive rights to use land for the benefit of adjacent land and if registered are binding on successors in title to the properties.

Interests in land can be divided and concurrently owned in any proportion by one or more parties.

China

China

In the PRC, there is no private ownership of land. Although ownership of land is not possible for private individuals or entities, it is possible to obtain the right to use land from the State. Such rights are usually known as land use rights.

Land ownership in the PRC is split into two categories: State-owned land and collectively-owned land. State-owned land is owned by the State and administered by the State Council. Collectively-owned land refers to land owned by collective economic organizations, which are generally committees of local villagers. Only State-owned land can be managed and developed by individuals and legal persons through the holding of land use rights.

The primary means by which land use rights for State-owned land can be acquired is through land grants. Land grants involve the local Land Administration Bureau entering into a land grant agreement with an individual land user, in which in return for the payment of a substantial land grant premium, the Land Administration Bureau grants the land user land use rights for a fixed period of time.

In addition to land grants, the PRC government allocates land use rights for the construction of public interest projects.

Other categories of property right include leases and licences. 

Croatia

Croatia

In Croatia, the following types of property can be acquired:

  • Full ownership
  • Co-ownership/joint ownership, and
  • Condominium (condominium is sole ownership of a flat or a separate part of a larger parcel of real estate, associated with a co-ownership right over the whole parcel of real estate - etažno vlasništvo)

Real estate interests, other than exclusive ownership, are:

  • Leases
  • Personal easements
  • Real easements, and
  • The right to build

Real easements are rights allowing one landowner to use another's land. These are linked to the land and are binding on future owners of the property, whereas personal easements (usufructs) allow rights to be granted to specific individuals.

The right to reside is another personal right allowing the holder to live in a building owned by someone else.

The right to build allows the holder to erect and maintain their own building on someone else's land and is normally granted for a limited period of time agreed between the landowner and the builder.

Czech Republic

Czech Republic

Czech law distinguishes between the following property rights:

  • The right of ownership which gives the owner of a property the full range of property rights, including the right to use, encumber or dispose of the property
  • The right of easement, ie the right to use a property owned by someone else either for a definite or an indefinite period of time. This right can be held by specific individuals or can be held in rem. A right in rem is created for the benefit of another property (usually a neighbouring one) and all owners of that property are entitled to benefit from it
  • Possession – a special arrangement similar to ownership whereby the possessor treats the property as his own although he is not technically the legal owner. After a certain period of time elapses (10 years in the case of real estate) the possessor (if he has taken possession in good faith) becomes the owner of the property.
  • The right of construction, ie the right to maintain a building on someone's else land (to build it or to own an existing building on the land). The building is the property of the owner of the right. This right of construction is only temporary as it cannot last longer than 99 years
Denmark

Denmark

The categories of property rights are legal ownership (known in common law as freehold), which is the complete and absolute right of ownership, and leasehold.

Other interests in real estate are rights in the nature of easements or of security by mortgage or by distraint (garnishment) of assets.

France

France

In addition to exclusive ownership, the French system recognizes the division of ownership between a right of usufruct (a right to receive the income and produce from real estate without outright ownership) and a bare ownership (ownership without the right to use and derive profit from the property) as well as timeshare arrangements.

Germany

Germany

In addition to exclusive ownership there is also joint ownership or condominium ownership (where individual units in the same building can be owned by different people) (Wohnungseigentum), and hereditary building rights. Hereditary building rights are long-term leases (often of 99 years) which include the right to erect and maintain buildings on a property. They are registered in the land register and can be encumbered with mortgages and land charges in the same way as full ownership.

The concept of leasehold under German law is different from that in a number of other countries including the UK. In Germany a lease is only a contractual right relating to the leased property, while ownership gives full rights over the property. 

Hong Kong

Hong Kong

An interest in land/real estate can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. If you acquire a freehold property, you acquire the exclusive right to both the building and the land where the building is erected on. A freehold owner can use and make alterations to the building as it wishes so long as it acts lawfully. On the other hand, if the property is held under leasehold ownership, the acquirer, namely the lessee, only acquires a right to use the property excluding the land beneath it for a limited period of time known as the term. Anything done to the property is governed by the terms of the lease.

In Hong Kong, since 1997, all land has become the property of the People's Republic of China while the government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is responsible for its management, use and development. In other words, every piece of land in Hong Kong (with the sole exception of St. John's Cathedral, the only freehold property in Hong Kong) is leasehold property .

When the government decides to release land for building it usually does this by selling the land (or "parcel" or "lot") at an auction. Legally speaking, the government does not "sell" the land; it sells the right to occupy it for a term of years. This system gives the Hong Kong Government as the grantor a high degree of control over the way in which land is developed and used through covenants and conditions imposed on the grantee and contained in the Lease. Since 1997, the term granted to the lessee has been 50 years from the date of the grant.

In the past, the government as lessor would issue a Government Lease to the purchaser (usually a developer) (as the lessee). Nowadays, instead, the government executes Conditions of Sale/Exchange/Grant/Re-grant/Extension depending on the purpose of grant. These are contracts giving a conditional right to the purchaser which will be converted to a form of legal ownership upon compliance with all the conditions stipulated. After a successful acquisition of the land, the purchaser (who is usually a developer) will recoup his investment in the construction and make a profit before the term runs out. Once a unit is sold or if the entire building as a whole is sold to a property company, the developer ceases to be involved. The purchasers take its place and they will also be able to sell their leasehold interests later or to assign the right to use to new tenants.

In Hong Kong where supply of land is limited, real estate is usually developed in form of a multi-storey building. Under this system, the entire land and building is notionally divided into a number of undivided shares which are allocated to different flats. The sale of flat to a purchaser is effected by transferring the relevant undivided shares attached to the flat. Legally speaking, as the division of land into shares is only notional, all the flat owners own the land in common. For practical reasons, exclusive possession of a flat is at the same time guaranteed by execution of a document called a "deed of mutual covenant" involving the developer, the first purchaser and sometimes the management company. Therefore, each flat owner, by assignment, owns a number of undivided shares in the land together with the exclusive right to occupy his/her flat.

Apart from a leasehold interest, a purchaser also enjoys an easement, meaning the non-exclusive right to use another's land in a particular way for the benefit of the use of one's own land. This is a proprietary interest which can be granted expressly, impliedly or by statute. Examples are a right of way and a right to park cars on neighbouring land.

In the case of a multi-storey building, the tenants also enjoy the right to use the common parts of the building, which refer to those parts which are not delineated as being for the exclusive use of one tenant in the deed of mutual covenants. Common examples are the corridors and staircase. This right can be expressly specified in the first assignment, Deed of Mutual Covenant and Sub-Deed of Mutual Covenant (if any) or implied by the Building Management Ordinance.

Hungary

Hungary

Under Hungarian law the following rights may be exercised in relation to real estate:

Land use

The owner of a building built on land has the right to use the land during the life of the building.

Usufruct

A right to possess, use and collect income and other proceeds from a property owned by someone else.

Right to use (beneficial use)

This is similar to usufruct, but the individual can only use the property to meet his or her own needs and those of his or her relatives living in the same household.

Easements

These are granted to enable an individual to use someone else's property for a specific purpose or require the owner to refrain from certain activities.

Easements include:

  • the grant of rights of way
  • the supply and drainage of water
  • the building of a cellar
  • installing pylons
  • buttressing a building etc.

Mortgage

The mortgagee is entitled to sell the mortgaged property in order to recover unpaid claims secured by the mortgage.

Call option

The beneficiary of the call option is entitled to purchase the property at any time within the option period on payment of the agreed purchase price.

Put option

The beneficiary of the put option is entitled to sell the property at any time within the option period for the agreed purchase price.

Pre-emption right

The beneficiary of the pre-emption right is entitled to purchase the property on the same terms and conditions as a purchase offer made by a third party.

Ireland

Ireland

Legal ownership of property in Ireland is divided into freehold and leasehold. A wide range of possible interests in real estate exists, ranging from a week‑to‑week tenancy to exclusive ownership.

Other interests in commercial property include short leaseholds for terms of up to five years and long leaseholds for terms of 20 years or more. In the case of a lease term in excess of five years, a commercial tenant may acquire a right to renew after five years.

Italy

Italy

Property rights under Italian law include the following:

  • Absolute freehold (piena proprietà) which is the right to fully and exclusively enjoy and dispose of the property.
  • A right to build (diritto di superficie) which is the right to build and maintain a building on or underneath a third party's property, granted for a specific period of time. When this expires the landowner becomes the legal owner of the building. It is also possible to sell the title to a building without owning the title to the underlying land (where the seller is a public authority the sale will be for a maximum 99-year term).
  • A beneficial interest (diritto di usufrutto) which is the right to enjoy a third party's real estate for a specific period of time. This cannot be longer than the lifetime of the beneficiary if they are an individual, or more than 30 years if the beneficiary is a legal entity. The beneficiary can use the real estate in the same way as an owner, including having the right to collect interest or to grant leases, provided the original use is maintained.
  • Right of use (diritto d'uso e di abitazione) which is the right to use real estate in order to meet the needs of the person holding the right and those of their immediate family.

Joint ownership also exists in the form of condominium: usually in relation to housing where different units in the same building are owned by different people but some of the areas and services are used by the owners collectively.

Japan

Japan

Ownership of real property and trust beneficial interest representing real property can be acquired.  Ownership, includes, without limitation, ownership of strata title (not a whole building).  In addition to exclusive ownership, joint ownership is possible.  There is no ownership of real property for certain period of each year.  Therefore, timeshares are often structured using not ownership but ‘use right’ of real property. 

Netherlands

Netherlands

The main types of property right in the Netherlands are:

  • Absolute ownership: full ownership of land includes ownership of all its constituent parts (everything above and beneath the surface), by way of accession (natrekking). This includes all building and underground structures, with the exception of underground cables and pipelines
  • Rights of superficies: the right to have, hold and maintain buildings, works or plant in, on or above land owned by another party - as such, the right of superficies prevents buildings, works or plant on land owned by another party passing into the ownership of that party
  • Apartment rights (condominium) – ownership of part of a property, including the exclusive right to an apartment plus shared rights and obligations in relation to common areas (for example walls, roof, external spaces)
  • Rights of leasehold – long leases (usually around 50 or 100 years, but they can also be perpetual) are a very common way of holding property owned by the municipalities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague. Leasehold rights may be transferred or mortgaged.
Nigeria

Nigeria

The Land Use Act vests control and administration of all land in the Governors of the States where it is located and the Governor is empowered to grant rights of occupancy over such lands for a term of years. By Section 49 of the Land Use Act, title to land can be held by the Federal Government or any of its agencies.

Private ownership of land is recognized but is subject to the rights of the state government to the reversion of the interests after the term granted to the owner, such terms of years on expiry are renewable continuously subject to conditions of grants and renewal imposed by the State.

Also, private ownership of land can before expiry of the term be terminated by revocation for breach of the terms of the grant or provisions of state regulations or by state acquisition where the property or land is required for public use or purposes.

Norway

Norway

Interests in real estate similar to exclusive ownership can be classified under Norwegian law as follows:

  • 'Land lease/Leasehold' (tomtefeste) confers the right to build and maintain a building on a third party's property. This right is granted for a certain period of time and when this expires the owner of the building can have the right to buy the property. 
  • 'Easement' (servitutt) confers a restricted right to use part of a third party's property for a certain period of time. 
  • 'Right of renting/leasing' (husleie) confers the right to use another person's property for a certain period of time. 
  • 'Joint-property' (sameie) confers the right to co-ownership of a property. 
  • 'Housing cooperative' either by way of owning a right of occupancy combined with an ownership position in a cooperative which owns the property (borettslag), or by directly owning a condominium unit combined with an ownership position in a cooperative which owns the property (eierseksjonssameie), or by renting the property in combination with owning shares in the limited liability company which holds the formal position of property owner or lessor (aksjeleilighet).
Poland

Poland

In addition to absolute ownership which gives title to real estate with the broadest legal rights, Polish law also recognizes perpetual usufruct rights. These are transferable, alienable and mortgageable rights to use property.

Perpetual usufruct can be granted in relation to state-owned (and situated within the administrative borders of a city or beyond those borders but within the area included in the development plan for a city) or local-government-owned real estate for a specified period of time of between 40 and 99 years, after which it expires unless extended for another period of between 40 and 99 years. Buildings and other installations situated on land that is subject to a right of perpetual usufruct are owned by the perpetual usufructuary.

The usufructuary is required to pay an annual fee to the state or the local government unit. The broad rights granted to the usufructuary result in the rights of the owner (ie the State Treasury or local government unit) being limited in that he may neither encumber nor sell the property to a third party other than the usufructuary.

Polish law also provides for the following real estate interests:

  • Lease (najem) – the right to use property for a definite or indefinite period of time subject to payment
  • Tenancy (dzierżawa) – the right to use and collect profits from real estate for a definite or indefinite period of time subject to payment
  • Easements (real and personal) – Polish law recognizes three types of easement. Real easements can be established for the benefit of the owner (perpetual usufructuary) of a (dominant) property, usually in relation to neighbouring land, in order to improve the utility of the property. Personal easements can be established for the benefit of an individual to satisfy his personal needs (for example, an easement of habitation). A transmission line easement can be established in favour of a business which intends to build transmission equipment (for the transmission of liquid, gas, electricity etc)
Portugal

Portugal

In Portugal, the property rights that can be acquired are the following:

  • Full ownership or freehold, consisting of full and exclusive right of possessing, enjoying and disposing of real property. 
  • Surface right, consisting of a right to build and maintain a building, using and enjoying the building, on, or under, a third party's land, or to plant any crops on said piece of land. Surface rights can be created for a defined period of time or can be perpetual. When surface right terminates, the owner of the land becomes the owner of the building incorporated in the land. 
  • Usufruct, consisting of a right to use and enjoy a third party's real property for a certain period of time, which cannot extend after the death of the beneficiary or be granted for periods longer than 30 years if the beneficiary is a legal person. The beneficiary can use the real estate in the same way as if he was the owner and collect natural profits, industrial profits or civil profits, provided the original economic function of the real estate is maintained.
  • Right of use, consisting of a right to use a third party's property to meet one's own specific needs or the needs of one's family.
Romania

Romania

The “right of ownership” entitles the owner to full powers including the following rights – to possess, to use and to dispose of the property.

“Common ownership” can be either:

  • Joint ownership (ownership by two or more persons holding undivided shares over the property)
  • Co-ownership (ownership by two or more persons holding ascertained shares over the property ) which, in turn, can be ordinary co-ownership or forced co-ownership (eg forced co-ownership over the common parts of a building)

The beneficiary of a “superficies right” has a complex right consisting of:

  • The right to own or to construct a building on another person's land
  • The right of use over the relevant land

A superficies right can be transferred only through a deed authenticated by a notary public and only together with the ownership of the building (as opposed to the ownership of the land, which can be transferred independently). A superficies right can be granted for a period of no more than 99 years, with an option to renew.

A “right of usufruct” is a right for a person to hold and use an asset owned by another person and to benefit from its products. The beneficiary of the right of usufruct cannot sell or otherwise dispose of the relevant asset and cannot alter the asset's substance in any way, but can assign the right. A right of usufruct can be granted for:

  • The lifetime of the beneficiary, if the beneficiary is an individual
  • For a period of no more than 30 years, if the beneficiary is a legal entity

A “right of use” is the right for a person to hold and use an asset owned by another person and to take its products (except from products resulting from the conclusion of agreements related to the asset), but only for household needs. The beneficiary of a right of use cannot assign its right. A “right of habitation” has the same characteristics as a right of use but applies where the property is a dwelling.

“Easements” are the rights for the benefit of the owner of one plot of land (the dominant tenement) in relation to a plot of land owned by another person (the servient tenement).

A “concession right” is a right and at the same time an obligation for a person, granted following a public tender procedure, to use part of the private or public property of the Romanian state or its administrative bodies for a limited period of time (ie a maximum of 49 years with the possibility of an extension for a further period equal to half of the initial duration).

Russia

Russia

The following types of property rights can be acquired in Russia:

  • Ownership (and a share in common ownership)
  • Limited property rights
  • Leasehold and other contractual rights

Russian legislation provides for the following limited rights over real estate:

  • The right of economic management (pravo khozyajstvennogo vedeniya) and the right of administrative management (pravo operativnogo upravleniya). These can be granted to special legal entities only (state and municipal enterprises, institutions) and permit the right-holder to use and dispose of the property subject to certain restrictions
  • A hereditary right to possession of land for life (pravo pozhiznennogo nasleduyemogo vladeniya). This can only be held by individuals if the right was granted before the new Land Code came into effect (October 2001). Someone who owns land by hereditary right to possession for life can use the property but cannot dispose of it, except through inheritance. The new Land Code prohibits the granting of hereditary rights to possession for life over land
  • Permanent unlimited use of land (pravo postoyannogo (bessrochnogo) polzovaniya). This is granted only to state and municipal institutions, federal government organisations and state and municipal bodies. A body holding real estate pursuant to this right is permitted to use the land but cannot dispose of it (ie by sale, lease etc)
  • Easements in relation to land and buildings. In certain cases, the rights of a property owner can be encumbered by a third party's right of access.

Russian legislation also provides for several types of contractual right for the temporary use of real estate, ie leasehold, rental of residential premises and gratuitous limited use. 

Slovak Republic

Slovak Republic

Real estate rights under Slovak law are as follows:

  • 'Right of ownership' (vlastnícke právo) is the right to hold, use or dispose of the real estate and all its attributes. This includes protection against any unauthorized limitation of the owner's rights.
  • 'Possession' (držba) is the right to hold goods and to dispose of them as one's own. Possession can be relevant in terms of the institute of usucaption as it constitutes one of the legal requirements for this type of underived acquisition of ownership right. After a certain period of time elapses (10 years in the case of real estate), the possessor becomes the owner of the property.
  • 'Right to lease/sub-lease' (nájom/podnájom) is the right to let or sublet real estate to a tenant in return for payment.
  • 'Right of pledge' (záložné právo) is the right of a pledgee to satisfy a claim against a pledgor from the security provided if his claim is not satisfied adequately and in a reasonable time.
  • 'Easement' (vecné bremeno) is a right to enjoy certain benefits (such as a right of access, a right to build etc) relating to a third party's real estate. This right either belongs to a specific individual or to the owner of a certain property.
Spain

Spain

The following property rights are recognized under Spanish law:

  • Absolute freehold (propiedad en pleno dominio) is the right to fully and exclusively enjoy and dispose of a property
  • Co-ownership (propiedad en pro indiviso) is the right to a share in the ownership of a property
  • Time sharing (derecho de aprovechamiento por turnos) is the right to use a specified and furnished property for a certain period of time during each year (not less than a week) for a term of between three and fifty years
  • Right to build (derecho de superficie) is the right to build and maintain a building on (or under) a third party's land for a specific period of time
  • Beneficial interest (derecho de usufructo) is the right to use a third party's real estate for a specific period of time in the same way as an owner would, including the right to collect interest and grant leaseholds, provided that the original use is maintained
  • Right of use (derecho de uso y habitación) is the right to use real estate as necessary to meet the specific needs of the right-holder and those of their close family
  • Easements (servidumbres) are benefits created in relation to another owner's real estate (water easements, rights of way, etc)
  • Leasehold (arrendamiento) is the right to use and enjoy a real estate asset for a fixed period of time for an agreed price
Sweden

Sweden

The only existing form of complete and absolute ownership in Sweden is the freehold. A property may also be held by site-leasehold (tomträtt), a form of leasehold. A site-leasehold may only be granted for property owned by the state, a municipality or other public body. Site-leaseholds are granted for an indefinite period of time and may only be terminated in very specific situations. In return, the site-leaseholder pays a fixed annual fee which can only be renegotiated every 10 years or more. A site-leaseholder is therefore considered to be in a similar legal position to an owner of the property. Site-leaseholds may be transferred and the holder can also raise mortgages assignable to the property.

Thailand

Thailand

There are two categories of property right that can be acquired: ownership and the right of possession.

In addition to exclusive ownership, the Thai Civil and Commercial Code recognizes the following rights:

  • Lease: Leases allow the use of land or real estate for a maximum term of 30 years, apart from the lease for commercial or industrial purposes, which may have a lease term of up to 50 years. In order to be enforceable, any lease for a period of longer than three years or for the life of the lessor or lessee (in the case of an individual) must be registered.
  • Servitude: Land or real estate may be subject to a servitude by virtue of which the owner of the property is bound for the benefit of another parcel of land or real estate, to allow certain acts affecting its land or real estate or to refrain from exercising certain rights inherent in its ownership, such as granting a right of way.
  • Habitation: A person who has been granted a right of habitation in a building is entitled to occupy the building as a dwelling place without paying rent. The maximum term for a habitation right is 30 years or for the life of the grantee (in the case of an individual).
  • Superficies: The landowner may create a right of superficies for the benefit of another person by giving him the right to own buildings, structures or planting which are either on or under the land. The maximum term of a superficies right is 30 years or for the life of the landowner or the superficiary (in the case of an individual).
  • Usufruct: Land or real estate may be subject to a usufruct by virtue of which the usufructuary is entitled to the possession, use and enjoyment of the property. The maximum term of a usufruct right is 30 years or for the life of the usufructuary (in the case of an individual).
United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

United Arab Emirates - Abu Dhabi

Within Abu Dhabi and outside the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone

An interest in land can consist of:

  • A freehold right
  • Usufruct: A right in rem in favour of the usufructuary to use property of another and to exploit it, provided that it remains in its original condition. This right can be held by UAE nationals throughout the UAE, but may only be held by non-UAE nationals (and companies owned in whole or in part by non-UAE nationals) in one of the designated investment areas in the emirate of Abu Dhabi (and is restricted to a maximum term of 99 years).
  • Musataha: A right in rem conferring upon the owner the right to build a building or to plant on the land of another. Again, this can only be held by UAE nationals throughout the UAE, but may only be held by non-UAE nationals (and companies owned in whole or in part by non-UAE nationals) in investment areas (restricted to a 50-year renewable term).

Usufructs and musatahas are investment interests allowing exploitation and development respectively as well as occupancy. Non-UAE nationals may only hold these interests within the designated investment areas, subject to the time limits which apply. A standard form musataha agreement has been introduced for use within Abu Dhabi for government-owned property.

A real estate owner can also grant non-exclusive rights, known as easements, to third parties to use the relevant land, such as granting a right of way. If correctly registered, easements are binding on any successors in title to the property.

In Abu Dhabi, a lease is a personal contract of hire, more akin to a licence and not an interest in land. Most non-owner occupiers in both the residential and commercial sectors are tenants under leases. Please see section on Commercial Leases for more information on leases in Abu Dhabi.

Within the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone

There are 10 categories of real estate interests that can be created in the Abu Dhabi Global Market free zone:

  • Freehold interests in land (restricted to GCC-citizens) – this is an outright ownership in an estate in land for an indeterminate duration
  • Freehold interests in real property (other than land)
  • Future interests in real property that become effective at a future date, such as reversion and remainder interests
  • Joint estates – these are interests in real property held by more than one person (including joint tenancy and tenancy in common)
  • Leasehold (which could include one or more sublease interests and excludes occupational (or otherwise) licence arrangements) – this gives the tenant the right to use and occupy the property for a specified period of time
  • Strata interests as a means of dividing real property into lots or sub-lots for strata ownership
  • Mortgages of real property
  • Easements – an agreement giving an owner of real property a non-possessory right (such as right to light) over another parcel of real property
  • Statutory charges imposing restrictions on use and dealings with real property
  • Covenants – an agreement by the owner of real property in favour of another

The real estate laws of Abu Dhabi in relation to usufructs and musatahas apply to such rights located throughout Abu Dhabi, including those located within the ADGM where such rights were created prior to 3 March 2015 (the date upon which the ADGM regulations came into force) and where no election has been made by the parties to the musataha or usufruct (as applicable) to convert the relevant agreement to a lease. Under the ADGM regulations, usufructuary and musataha rights are not recognised interests and so no further usufructuary or musataha interests will be created within the ADGM following the implementation of the regulations.

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

United Arab Emirates - Dubai

In Dubai, the following property rights exist:

  • 'Absolute ownership', not restricted in time, ie freehold.
  • Grant – this is land which is 'granted' by the Ruler of Dubai to citizens of the United Arab Emirates and which can be taken back by the Ruler as he wishes. The Ruler may also impose conditions of grant, for example, a restriction on further transfers.
  • Usufruct – this is similar in nature to a lease but is a 'real' right.
  • Musataha – this is also similar to a lease but includes the right to develop the land and own any buildings constructed on it for a maximum of 50 years.
  • Leasehold – a personal right between two parties, where the landlord grants the right of exclusive occupation to the tenant of a specified property.
  • No concept of a non-exclusive 'licence' to occupy exists in law but, as a commercial agreement, there is nothing in principle to prevent such an arrangement being entered into.
UK - England and Wales UK - England and Wales

UK - England and Wales

An interest in land/real estate can either be held under freehold or leasehold ownership. Freehold is the highest category of ownership in England and Wales and, in most cases, effectively confers absolute ownership. Leasehold confers rights of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited period of time.

A real estate owner can also give non-exclusive rights, known as easements, to third parties to use the land, such as granting a right of way. If correctly registered, easements are binding on any future owners of the property.

UK - Scotland

UK - Scotland

As well as full ownership, it is possible to own property jointly with other parties, although this is not common where the parties are unconnected. In addition, interests under leases can be acquired and disposed of in the same way as freehold interests, subject to any limitations set out in the lease agreement.

A real estate owner can also grant non-exclusive rights to third parties to use the property, for example rights of access across the land. These rights are generally known as servitudes and are binding on the successors in title to the person who granted the original right, provided they are correctly drafted in the title document and registered. (It is also possible to acquire such rights through the principle of prescription if they have been used without objection for a number of years.)

Ukraine

Ukraine

Ukrainian law provides for the following real estate rights apart from full ownership:

  • Lease (the right to use immovable property for a certain period subject to payment)
  • Possession of someone else's immovable property (actual possession of property that belongs to another person)
  • Use of someone else's immovable property ('servitude' – the right to use someone else's land in order to meet one's own needs, if these cannot be met in any other way)
  • Use of someone else's land for agricultural purposes (emphyteusis)
  • Use of someone else's land for construction (superficies)
  • Permanent use of a plot of land (for an unlimited term and only in relation to plots that are state or municipal property). This right is granted only to state or municipal enterprises, organizations and institutions, religious organizations or to civil organizations whose members are disabled
  • A right of economic management (applicable to real estate other than plots of land). This right is granted to state or municipal commercial enterprises
  • A right of operational management (applicable to real estate other than plots of land). This right is granted to state or municipal non-commercial enterprises
United States

United States

An interest in land can either be held under fee or leasehold ownership. Fee ownership is the highest category of ownership in the US and effectively confers absolute ownership. Leasehold confers rights of exclusive possession and use of land for a limited period of time.

A real estate owner can also give non-exclusive rights, known as easements, to third parties to use the land, such as granting a right of way. Recorded easements are binding on any successors in title to the property.

Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe there are two categories of property rights: real rights and personal rights

A real right is an exclusive interest or benefit enjoyed by a person in a thing. It is an absolute right and entitles the holder to enforce it against other persons. Real rights are registrable, while personal rights are not. Real rights include long leases and servitudes.

A personal right is a right that is enforceable against only a particular person and is based on the existence of a special legal relationship, such as a contract. It is a right from a person to a person. An example of this would be short-term leasehold.