Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner of property may have the right to consume, alter, share, ...
that is movable. In
In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omniprese ...
systems, personal property may also be called chattels or personalty. In civil law
systems, personal property is often called movable property or movables—any property that can be moved from one location to another.
Personal property can be understood in comparison to real estate
, immovable property or
In English common law, real property, real estate, immovable property or, solely in the US and Canada, realty, is land which is the property of some person and all structures (also called improvements or fixtures) integrated with or affix ...
(such as land and buildings).
Movable property on land (larger
Livestock are the domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to provide labor and produce diversified products for consumption such as meat, eggs, milk, fur, leather, and wool. The term is sometimes used to refer solely to anima ...
, for example) was not automatically sold with the land, it was "personal" to the owner and moved with the owner.
The word ''cattle'' is the Old Norman
variant of Old French
''chatel'', chattel (derived from Latin ''capitalis'', “of the head”), which was once synonymous with general movable personal property.
Personal property may be classified in a variety of ways.
Intangible personal property or "intangibles" refers to personal property that cannot actually be moved, touched or felt, but instead represents something of value such as
A negotiable instrument is a document guaranteeing the payment of a specific amount of money, either on demand, or at a set time, whose payer is usually named on the document. More specifically, it is a document contemplated by or consisting of a ...
A security is a tradable financial asset. The term commonly refers to any form of financial instrument, but its legal definition varies by jurisdiction. In some countries and languages people commonly use the term "security" to refer to any for ...
, service (economics)
An intangible asset is an asset that lacks physical substance. Examples are patents, copyright, franchises, goodwill, trademarks, and trade names, as well as software. This is in contrast to physical assets (machinery, buildings, etc.) and fi ...
s including chose in action
Tangible personal property refers to any type of property that can generally be moved (i.e., it is not attached to real property or land), touched or felt. These generally include items such as furniture, clothing, jewelry, art, writings, or household goods. In some cases, there can be formal title documents that show the ownership and transfer rights of that property after a person's death (for example, motor vehicles, boats, etcetera) In many cases, however, tangible personal property will not be "titled" in an owner's name and is presumed to be whatever property he or she was in possession of at the time of his or her death.
Accountants distinguish personal property from real property because personal property can be
In accountancy, depreciation is a term that refers to two aspects of the same concept: first, the actual decrease of fair value of an asset, such as the decrease in value of factory equipment each year as it is used and wear, and second, the a ...
d faster than improvements (while land is not depreciable at all). It is an owner's right to get tax benefits for chattel, and there are businesses that specialize in appraising personal property, or chattel.
The distinction between these types of property is significant for a variety of reasons. Usually one's rights on movables are more attenuated than one's rights on immovables (or real property). The statutes of limitations
or prescriptive period
s are usually shorter when dealing with personal or movable property. Real property rights are usually enforceable for a much longer period of time and in most jurisdictions real estate and immovables are registered in government-sanctioned land registers. In some jurisdictions, rights (such as a
A lien ( or ) is a form of security interest granted over an item of property to secure the payment of a debt or performance of some other obligation. The owner of the property, who grants the lien, is referred to as the ''lienee'' and the pers ...
or other security interest) can be registered against personal or movable property.
In common law it is possible to place a
A mortgage loan or simply mortgage (), in civil law jurisdicions known also as a hypothec loan, is a loan used either by purchasers of real property to raise funds to buy real estate, or by existing property owners to raise funds for any pu ...
upon real property. Such a mortgage requires payment or the owner of the mortgage can seek
Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset used as the collateral for the loan.
Formally, a mort ...
. Personal property can often be secured with a similar kind of device, variously called a '' chattel mortgage
'', a ''trust receipt'', or a '' security interest
''. In the United States, Article 9 of the
Uniform Commercial Code
The Uniform Commercial Code (UCC), first published in 1952, is one of a number of Uniform Acts that have been established as law with the goal of harmonizing the laws of sales and other commercial transactions across the United States through UC ...
governs the creation and enforcement of security interests in most (but not all) types of personal property.
There is no similar institution to the mortgage in the civil law, however a hypothec
is a device to secure real right
s against property. These real rights follow the property along with the ownership. In common law a lien also remains on the property and it is not extinguished by alienation of the property; liens may be real or equitable
Many jurisdictions levy a personal property tax
, an annual tax on the privilege of owning or possessing personal property within the boundaries of the jurisdiction. Automobile and boat registration fees are a subset of this tax. Most household goods are exempt as long as they are kept or used within the household; the tax usually becomes a problem when the taxing authority discovers that expensive personal property like art is being regularly stored outside of the household.
The distinction between tangible and intangible personal property is also significant in some of the jurisdictions which impose sales taxes. In Canada, for example, provincial and federal sales taxes were imposed primarily on sales of tangible personal property whereas sales of intangibles tended to be exempt. The move to value added taxes, under which almost all transactions are taxable, has diminished the significance of the distinction.
Personal versus private property
In political/economic theory, notably socialist
, and many
Anarchism is a political philosophy and movement that is skeptical of all justifications for authority and seeks to abolish the institutions it claims maintain unnecessary coercion and hierarchy, typically including, though not necessar ...
philosophies, the distinction between private and personal property is an important one. Which items of property constitute personal versus private, is open to debate. In some economic systems, such as
Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, price system, private ...
, private and personal property are considered to be of equal importance and significance without the need for making a distinction.
* Personal property, or '' possession
s'', includes "items intended for personal use" (e.g., one's
A toothbrush is an oral hygiene tool used to clean the teeth, gums, and tongue. It consists of a head of tightly clustered bristles, atop of which toothpaste can be applied, mounted on a handle which facilitates the cleaning of hard-to-reach ...
, clothes, and vehicles, and rarely money). It must be gained in a "fair" manner according to socialist doctrine. The owner has a distributive right
to exclude others (i.e. the right to command a "fair share" of personal property)—presumably as decided by bureaucratic
A politburo () or political bureau is the executive committee for communist parties. It is present in most former and existing communist states.
The term "politburo" in English comes from the Russian ''Politbyuro'' (), itself a contraction ...
, or other committee decision.
* Private property
is a social relation
ship between the owner and persons deprived, i.e. not a relationship between person and thing. Private property may include artifacts, factories, mines, dams, infrastructure, natural vegetation, mountains, deserts and seas—these generate capital for the owner without the owner necessarily having to perform any physical labor. Conversely, those who perform labor using somebody else's private property are considered deprived of the value of their work in Marxist doctrine, and are instead given a salary that is disjointed from the value generated by the worker.
* In Marxist theory, '' private property
'' typically refers to capital or the means of production, while ''personal property'' refers to consumer and non-capital goods and services.
Chattel house is a Barbadian term for a small moveable wooden house that working class people would occupy. The term goes back to the plantation days when the home owners would buy houses designed to move from one property to another. The word " c ...
* Communal property
* Jus relictae
* Secured transaction
* State property
Trespass to chattels
Trespass to chattels is a tort whereby the infringing party has intentionally (or, in Australia, negligently) interfered with another person's lawful possession of a chattel (movable personal property). The interference can be any physical con ...
Australia Personal Property Securities Act 2009Personal Property Securities Register AustraliaUnited States Tax Convention with the Kingdom of Morocco 1977