Doctrine of Tenure

The doctrine of tenure has its origins in the feudal system of land ownership, which emerged during the middle ages in England. Two important points can be gleaned from this fact alone: first, the doctrine of tenure is only relevant to interests relating to real property. And secondly, the social developments of modern society have meant that the incidents of the doctrine are no longer of great relevance, particularly in Australia.

Land tenure is the name given, particularly in the common law system, to the legal regime in which land is owned by an individual, who is said to “hold” the land. The sovereign monarch, known as The Crown, held land in its own right. All private owners are either its tenants or sub-tenant. The term “tenure” is used to signify the relationship between tenant and lord, not the relationship between tenant and land.

Historically in the system of feudalism, the lords who received land directly from the crown were called tenants in chief. They doled out portions of their land to lesser tenants in exchange for services, which in turn divided it among even lesser tenants. This process of granting subordinate tenancies is known as subinfeudation. In this way, all individuals except the monarch were said to hold the land “of” someone else. Historically, it was usual for there to be reciprocal duties between lord and tenant. There were different kinds of tenure to fit various kinds of duties that a tenant might owe a lord. For instance, a military tenure might be by knight service, requiring the tenant to supply the lord with several armed horse riders. The concept of tenure has since evolved into other forms, such as leases and estates.

Consequences of Tenure:

  • Crown owns the land
  • We own from the crown
  • If you die intestate, with no heir capable of inheriting, the land goes back to the crown

The concepts of landlord and tenant have been recycling to refer to the modern relationship of the parties to land which is held under a lease. The doctrine of tenure did not apply to personal property. However, the relationship of bailment in the case of chattels closely resembles the landlord-tenant relationship that can be created inland.