Property is closely associated with freedom. Following the demise of the feudal property system, property ownership in Anglo-American law came to imply an individual's freedom to act as she pleases on her land. For their part, modern property theories—whether right-based, utilitarian, or relational—employ the normative value of freedom to justify ownership. Courts and scholars have always acknowledged the fact that this freedom of the owner cannot be absolute: an owner's freedom to do as she pleases on her land is often limited to protect other owners. However, the consensual assumption remains that an owner is not subject to affirmative duties. She is free, according to conventional wisdom, to choose to do nothing with her property. This Article argues that this assumption is simply wrong. Owners are not free to ignore their land. Property law has always subjected them to an obligation to maintain their land up to a specific standard. This obligation, dubbed here "the duty to maintain," is enforced through an array of legal rules and practices. This Article chronicles these rules and practices for the first time, classifying them in accordance with the enforcement mechanism they employ. It then justifies these diverse rules and practices—and the general duty to maintain—in light of the different theories of property. In this fashion, this Article illustrates that ownership, both as a legal institution and as a normative concept, inherently and inevitably incorporates a duty to maintain.
The Duty To Maintain,
64 Duke Law Journal
Available at: https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/dlj/vol64/iss3/2