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Fixtures And Chattels Problem Question Essay

A Problem Question Toolkit

Most resources about good academic legal writing include advice on how to approach problem questions. There is a common pattern to most of the suggested techniques. The main differences are the number of stages that the task is divided into and the acronym that the author has chosen to make his or her tool memorable. The suggested answers to the problem questions in Land Law are based on a technique known as IRAC: the Issues, Rules, Application and Conclusion that combine to make a good answer.

Issues

Start by identifying the issues that you are being asked to address.
  • What are you asked to do?
  • What does the client want to know?
You will find this much easier if you have also been thinking about why the rules that you have been studying came into being. Case law arises out of specific disputes between specific people. Even statute law is usually designed to address a particular problem.

Most problem questions will contain more than one issue. Sometimes these are identified for you (for example, the question may be divided into parts). At other times you will need to identify the separate the issues and an appropriate structure for your answer.

Rules

Look at each of the issues in turn.

-What legal rules are relevant here?
  • What is the general area (major topic, tutorial or lecture theme)?
  • What are the major cases and statutes?
  • What major concepts or terms do you need to explain?

-What are the detailed legal issues?
  • Each main issue is likely to be comprised of a number of sub-issues (for example, distinguishing a fixture from a chattel requires you to explain and apply both aspects of the two-stage test).
  • For each sub issue, identify:

    a) the relevant detailed rules; and
    b) the statutes and cases in which these rules are found.

Application

Apply the law to the facts of the problem
  • What statutes are relevant to the specific facts?

    a) Why?
    b) How do they specifically apply to this case?
  • What cases are relevant?

    a) How do they apply to these facts?
    b) How do their facts differ from those in the case?
    c) How significant is this and why?
  • Make sure that you consider both sides of any argument - do not limit yourself to what seems the most obvious outcome – it may not be the correct one.

Conclusion

Can you draw your analysis together to answer all the issues raised in the question? Check that:
  • your conclusions follow logically from your analysis.
  • you have dealt with all the issues that you identified (although you may not be able to give a definite answer);
  • you have referred to all the facts stated in the question (if not, are you sure that that particular fact is not relevant?); and
  • you have indicated what further information you need to know before you can reach a more definite conclusion.
Be very careful of using phrases such as ‘obviously’ or ‘it is clearly the case that’. It may be obvious to you, but a good mark will depend upon your ability to explain your conclusion to the examiner.

IRAC is very useful, but it does need to be used with care.
  • It is a tool for approaching questions, not a series of subheadings for your answer.
  • The process is rarely as simple or as linear as the notes above might suggest. Quite often, there will be more than one rule that needs to be considered for each issue raised by the question. Every rule is probably comprised of a number of sub-rules (or may be made up of a number of cases). Each component of the rule needs to be considered in logical order before you can reach a conclusion and move onto the next rule.
​This website includes suggested answers to the end of chapter problem questions in Land Law. These suggested answers demonstrate how the IRAC tool can be used to successfully tackle different topics and different styles of question. Buy this book

Sayles: Land Law Concentrate 4e

Chapter 1: Outline answers to essay questions

'Cuius est solum eius est usque ad coelum et ad inferos': he who owns land owns everything up to the sky and down to the centre of the earth. To what extent is this Latin phrase misleading today?

It may be advisable to first consider what is meant by 'ownership of land'.

  • Identify that technically all land is owned by the Crown.
  • A persons 'ownership of land' is rather a proprietary right to possess and enjoy the land for a period of time. This is known as an 'estate' and the freehold estate bestows upon a person rights over the land that are, for all practical purposes, tantamount to absolute ownership.

Assess the way ownership of land no longer means having rights over everything up to the sky and down to the earth. This may include consideration of:

  • rights extending only as far as the lower airspace and not the upper airspace. Explain how lower and upper airspace is determined. Key authorities include Anchor Brewhouse Developments v Berkley House (Docklands Developments) Ltd (1987); Bernstein of Leigh (Baron) v Skyviews & General Ltd (1978); Civil Aviation Act 1982;
  • statute qualification over rights to certain things found in the ground, for example Coal Industry Act 1994;
  • ownership of treasure found on your land belonging to the Crown: Treasure Act 1996/Treasure (Designation) Order 2002;
  • ownership of other items found on your land. Key cases include Moffat v Kazana (1960); Waverley BC v Fletcher (1996); Parker v British Airways Board (1982);
  • ownership of plants and animals found on the land;
  • rights where water flows over the land;
  • what actually amounts to land: the fixtures and chattels debate. Key cases include Holland v Hodgson (1872); Botham v TSB Bank plc (1997).

Draw conclusions from the analysis above.

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