How ‘proper’ it is to own a property? While the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right of everyone to own a property, this right is actually one of the most controversial human rights, especially when it comes to usage, protection and restriction.
For example, the European Court of Human Rights does not constitute the right to property as an absolute one, but provides each state with flexibility of discretion to limit the rights: “No one shall be deprived of his possessions except in the public interest and subject to the conditions provided for by law and by the general principles of international law.”
The term property, itself, entered the English vocabulary at the end of the 14th century, as a borrowing from French, and with the meaning of ‘an attribute, characteristic, quality,’ to be first recorded in use in Geoffrey Chaucer’ s Parson’s Tale, circa 1390.
And the meaning to be first defined in John Trevisa’s translation, circa 1398, of the early encyclopaedia De Proprietatibus Rerum (On the Properties of Things) where he provides the definition of the Latin term proprium, neuter of proprius (‘own, individual’).
The usage of the term as synonymous to ‘possession’ developed in parallel, first recorded in use in The English works of John Gower, circa 1400.
And proprietor, to name a person who owns something, is first met in the official records of the English Parliament from 1473: “The first or former proprietors and owners of the same shall move or recover the said Ships, Goods, or any part of them.”
The common sense of ‘a piece of land or building under one ownership’ developed in only the 18th century, to first refer to the ownership of land, and used in that meaning in the translation of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe from 1719.
Though developments in property law started in both England and parts of Europe in the 17th century, the first modern legal code – to introduce the notion of property and to be adopted with a pan-European scope – was the Napoleonic Code, entering into force in 1804.
The Code aimed to remove the privilege based on birth, status and religion, and to establish universal rights for both personal and real properties.
Personal properties are often referred to as movable properties, while the immovable ones constitute the real properties and all the associated with them rights and obligations.
And one of the first reports on the British real property market: “Review of the property market for the past month, containing interesting and valuable information to the Solicitors, and to buyers and sellers of land and houses”, was published in 1875, in The Times.