Thursday, January 10, 2008

Teaching Order - Where Should Sevitudes Go?

It's been a crazy first week of the semester, but I'm finally starting to feel like things are under control.  Earlier in the week, I put together my syllabi for my property classes for this semester.  I'm teaching the second half of property to an evening section, and teaching the whole course to a day section.  This gives me a chance to test something I've been thinking about for a while.

Like most property profs, I have been teaching servitudes late in the course, as part of a larger unit on land use controls.  It has occurred to me, though, that it might make sense to teach servitudes earlier.  Servitudes are non-possessory interests in land, and can logically be placed after a unit on co-ownership of property.  This placement in the course would have the advantage of exposing students to servitudes before the unit on land transactions and title insurance, where many of the issues involve easements and covenants (e.g. marketable title, the warranty against encumbrances, and many recording cases).

So this semester, I'm going to teach servitudes in the traditional way in my evening section, and move it forward in my day section.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Ben Barros

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We teach Property as two 3 hour courses during the first two semesters of law school.

The second semester 3 hour course starts with deeds, mortgages, and title assurance. However, we spend a large amount of the course on land use controls.

I divide this section into Judicial Land Use Controls (basically a short nuisance section), Legislative Land Use Controls, and Private Land Use Controls. I place the servitudes in the Private Land Use Controls (though, yes, in some cases servitudes are not strictly the result of private agreements).

Under this structure, I've found that the students better understand where servitudes fit into the macro land use regulation picture.

That said, I still nominate "servitudes" to be on the list for a restatement of property terminology designed to make property terms more self-descriptive and intuitive in their naming.

Posted by: Chad Emerson | Jan 12, 2008 5:05:39 AM

I restructured the property class here (at Baylor) when I taught it last time (my second time) and divided up the course in a way it makes sense to me—Property I is “Possessory & Non-Possessory Interests in Property” and Property II is “Acquiring Interests in Property.”

The first time that I taught I used the previous structure where easements and covenants came in the second half after the real estate transaction. I found myself saying the same phrase a lot “we’ll get to that in a few weeks.” So when I reorganized I decided to make property I all about classification and defining interests you can acquire—Topic I—Freehold Estates, Topic II—Leaseholds, Topic III—Covenants and Topic IV—Easements. I finish the quarter with the last topic being Concurrent ownership and use that as a bridge between property I and property II as we start talking about the ownership of the interests, using concurrent interests to talk about how multiple people own an interest at the same time and then moving to transferring interests in property in property II. Property II is composed of the purchase of property, adverse possession and gift. Then I finish up with homestead which I call “Protecting Interests in Property” and then try to add in a touch of eminent domain as an example of how you can lose your interest in property.

Anyway, after doing this the last time I found it much easier to teach property II for me and for the students to learn the material. When we talked about the real estate transaction, having them already know what covenants and easements were made it easier for them to understand why it’s so important to look for those things in the chain of title and why someone might not want property burdened with such non-possessory interests or how it might affect the price, etc. I think it also helped the students with their exam performance as I saw considerably better reasoned answers with the material divided this way.

I’m doing it again this time and am finishing up property I in the next couple of weeks and am in the covenant, easement, concurrent ownership material and I still think it was a good idea.

Keep in mind, these are thoughts from a new teacher but this is what seems to be working for me.

Posted by: Bridget Fuselier | Jan 22, 2008 9:45:51 AM

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