Definition of lex loci rei sitae
The lex loci rei sitae (Latin: law of the place where the property is situated) is a doctrine which states that the law governing the transfer of title to property is dependent upon, and varies with, the location of the property for the purposes of the conflict of laws. Conflict is the branch of public law regulating all lawsuits involving a "foreign" law element where a difference in result will occur depending on which laws are applied.
When a case comes before a court and all the main features of the case are local, the court will apply the lex fori, the prevailing municipal law, to decide the case. But if there are "foreign" elements to the case, the forum court may be obliged under the conflict of laws system to consider:
- whether the forum court has jurisdiction to hear the case;
- it must then characterise the issues, i.e. allocate the factual basis of the case to its relevant legal classes; and
- then apply the choice of law rules to decide which law is to be applied to each class.
The lex loci rei sitae is a choice of law rule applied to identify the lex causae for cases involving title to, or the possession and use of personal property. In law, there are two types of property:
- Real property is land or any permanent feature or structure above or below the surface. Ownership of land is an aspect of the system of real property or realty in common law systems (immovables in civil law systems and the conflict of laws).
- All other property is considered personal property or personalty in common law systems (movables in civil law systems and the conflict of laws), and this property is either tangible or intangible, i.e. it is either physical property that can be touched like a computer, or it is an enforceable right like a patent or other form of intellectual property.
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