Property may be classified as (i) Tangible or intangible; (ii) Real or personal; and (iii) Public or private. It is necessary to distinguish between different types of property, as the law governing property rights differs depending upon the type of property.
Let us illustrate. In the case of transfer of ownership of a building, the owner must sign a formal instrument of conveyance, a deed. However, no such deed is necessary when a TV set is being sold to a customer. Also, the taxes imposed are different for tangible and intangible property as well as for real and personal property.
Tangible and Intangible Property:
Tangible property consists of things that have a physical existence. Thus books, clothing, buildings and land are examples of tangible property. Intangible property consists of things that do not exist in physical form but they do have economic value. Thus, patents, copyrights, accounts receivables, and shares in a company are examples of intangible property.
Real and Personal Property:
Real property is land and everything attached to it, including the air above it and the minerals below its surface. Also real property (or real estate) is known as realty and is always immovable or tangible. A tree, for example, is real property when the right of ownership attaches to it.
Now if this tree is cut up in to logs, however, that tree becomes personal property- movable physical property, (i.e., tangible) other than real property. It is necessary to distinguish between real and personal property as the two kinds of property is treated quite differently.
Meaning of chattel:
It is a legal term for tangible physical property (i.e., personal property) for example, furniture or an automobile that can be moved easily.
Classification of personal property as tangible and intangible:
Sometimes personal property is classified as tangible and intangible. Personal property is movable but may be tangible or intangible. Thus, the movable physical items having existence such as furniture come under the category of personal tangible property. The personal intangible property such as patents, goodwill, copyrights and trade marks has no real physical existence.
To sum up, the term property denotes a relationship between the individual, holding rights over something that can be used and despond of and everyone else whose interest in that something can be enforced by law. The everyday use of the term ‘private property’ suggests a realm where the owner is the supreme authority.
Property rights are not absolute:
The property rights are not unlimited or unrestricted in other words; the ownership rights are never absolute. The public, for example, has certain rights over all private property. But they can be made limited or restricted by enacting laws.
Therefore, it is said that the concept of private property is exclusive but not absolute. The concept of private property has two aspects. These are ‘individual’ and ‘social’ and they go together. You may or may not do with your house as you like it. The law protects your rights over the property.
Thus you can take the help of police when a trespasser refuses to get off tour property. In the absence of law the trespasser could occupy your house. It means there cannot be private property without government.
The private property is not made absolute. The government has some basic rights over it. Thus, the government can obtain revenue through taxation over property. It can seize property for public use, upon payment of just compensation. It can prescribe zoning restrictions on land use, ceilings on holdings, etc.
Thus certain limits may be established by the government on a property owner’s freedom to use his property. The law imposes significant restrictions on the rights of property owners to protect other persons who may be harmed by the owner’s use of property. Can we say that the true subject matter of property is not the asset only but also the rights attached to it? Yes, it is true, an asset, thereof, may be corporeal or incorporeal. A house is a corporeal asset but the rent therefore is an incorporeal asset.