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Law of Property Act 1925 in United Kingdom

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Law of Property Act 1925 in United Kingdom

The Law of Property Act 1925 (c 20) is a statute of the United Kingdom Parliament. It forms part of an interrelated programme of legisation introduced by Lord Chancellor Lord Birkenhead between 1922 and 1925. The programme was intended to modernise the English law of real property. The Act deals principally with the transfer of property by lease and deed.

Background

The policy of the act was to reduce the number of legal estates to two and generally to make the transfer of interests in land easier for purchasers. The Act followed on from a series of land law and policy reforms that had been begun by the Liberal government starting in 1906. This is how one American legal scholar, Morris Raphael Cohen, described it.

That which was hidden from Maitland, Joshua Williams, and the other great ones, was revealed to a Welsh solicitor who in the budget of 1910 proposed to tax the land so as to force it on the market. The radically revolutionary character of this proposal was at once recognized in England. It was bitterly fought by all those who treasured what had remained of the old English aristocratic rule. When this budget finally passed, the basis of the old real property law and the effective power of the House of Lords was gone. The legislation of 1925-26 was thus a final completion in the realm of private law of the revolution that was fought in 1910 in the forum of public law, i.e., in the field of taxation and the power of the House of Lords.

In Fiction

The Property Act has a major part in the background to the 1927 mystery novel Unnatural Death by Dorothy L. Sayers, its passage in Parliament providing the motive for the seemingly motiveless murder which Lord Peter Wimsey must solve. As it is eventually discovered, a young woman who stood to inherit great fortune from her great-aunt under the previous law - where property was to be inherited by any "next of kin", however remote - stood a risk of being disinherited under the provisions of the 1925 act. Therefore, she murdered the great-aunt, in order to make sure that her death will happen while the old law was still in force and before the new Property Act came into force on January 1, 1926. The book includes several chapters in which lawyers discuss the Property Act and its implications at great length.