Freehold (law)

In common law jurisdictions like England and Wales, Australia,[1] Canada, and Ireland, a freehold is the common ownership of real property, or land,[lower-alpha 1] and all immovable structures attached to such land. It is in contrast to a leasehold: in which the property reverts to the owner of the land after the lease period has expired.[3] For an estate to be a freehold, it must possess two qualities: immobility (property must be land or some interest issuing out of or annexed to land) and ownership of it must be of an indeterminate duration. If the time of ownership can be fixed and determined, it cannot be a freehold. It is "An estate in land held in fee simple, fee tail or for term of life." [4]

A subset is a perpetual freehold, which is "an estate given to a grantee for life, and then successively to the grantee's heirs for life."[4]

In England and Wales, before the Law of Property Act 1925, a freehold estate transferable to the owner's "heirs and assigns" (successors by inheritance, or purchase (including gift), respectively) was a fee simple estate. A fee tail estate describes when transfer (by inheritance or otherwise) was limited to lineal descendants of the first person to whom the estate was given (known as "heirs of the body" or "heirs of the blood"). There were also freehold estates not of inheritance, such as an estate for life.

See also


  1. Legally all land in England, Wales, and Scotland belongs to the Crown. Freehold is ownership of an estate in land rather than the land itself. This distinction dates back to the Middle Ages and makes relatively little difference nowadays, so legal authorities often do not bother to distinguish between ownership of the land and ownership of an estate. Its effect is most notable when property becomes ownerless at which point it reverts to the monarch (as the owner of the superior interest) under a process known as escheat.[2]


  1. "Freehold Land". Australian Trade Commission. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  2. "FAQs About Escheat". Crown Estate. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  3. Roberts, Chris (2006). Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind Rhyme. Waterville, Maine: Thorndike Press. ISBN 978-0-7862-8517-4.
  4. Garner, Bryan A., Editor in Chief. Black's Law Dictionary (7th ed.). St. Paul Minnesota: West Group. p. 675. ISBN 0-314-22864-0. ISBN 0-314-24130-2-deluxe.

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