Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Seisin Definition:

The legal possession of property; historically, possession under claim of freehold.

Related Terms: Custodia Legis, Freehold

In law, the term refers more specifically to the possession of land by a freeholder.

For example, a owner of a building has seisin, but a tenant does not, because the tenant, although enjoying possession, does not have the legal title in the building.

Ballentine defines seisin as:

"The possession of a freehold estate by the owner...

"A person is said to be seised or seized of personal property when he has ownership of it, his ownership of it carrying with it the right of possession."

Historically, under the common law all land belonged to the King though it could be subject to exclusive use by landlords and later, owned by another with an ultimate right of reversion to the monarch at the latter's discretion. In the subsequent evolution, the terms ownership and seisin became fused, the latter succumbing to the former as any entitlement to recall by the Crown was eliminated in most jurisdictions.

Justice Manfield, in a 1757 note in Co. Litt. (at 266b), described seisin as that middle ground between tenancy and freehold, a threshold:

"Seisin is a technical term to denote the completion of that investiture, by which the tenant was admitted into the tenure, and without which no freehold could be constituted or pass."

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