Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Dominium Directum Definition:

Latin: qualified ownership of a land: not having possession or use of property but retaining ownership.

Related Terms: Dominion Utile, Landlord

Bouvier described dominium directum as:

"... usufructuary dominion."

In Emptio (Nondum) Tollit Locatum, E. J. H. Schrage wrote:

"In the Middle Ages ... the positions of ... vassal were designated by dominium utileDominium utile is opposed to dominium directum; the latter term stands for those normal cases of dominium in Roman law, as well as the position of the feudal lord...."

In other words, under the ancient feudal system of land ownership and use on England, the Lord retains the ultimate directing mind over the real property, dominium directum, and the vassal, dominium utile; the Lord with much the same bundle of rights that a land-owner or landlord would have over land he or she has leased, and the tenant, the dominium utile of the rented lands. Indeed, the term landlord has changed and adapted to the evolution of this legal relationship.

Further, there are significant legal consequences in the ancient vassal-Lord relationship of the feudal system which have not survived and are not, of course, today owed by a tenant to his or her landlord. See, for example, gavelkind, heriot, socage and trinoda necessitas.


  • Schrage, E. J. H., Emptio (Nondum) Tollit Locatum, 1978 Acta Juridica 13

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