Land law represents the type of law discipline that pertains to the various inherent rights of individuals to utilize (or restrict others from) owned land. There are many jurisdictions of the world that employ the words real property or real estate to describe such privately, corporately, or government owned land. Land utilization agreements such as renting prove to be a critical intersecting point where land law and contract law meet.
Water rights and mineral rights to a piece of property are closely connected to and interrelated with land law. Such land rights turn out to be so important that this form of law always develops one way or another, regardless of whether or not a country, kingdom, or empire exists to enforce it. A classic example of this phenomenon is the American West and its claim clubs. These institutions came about on their own as a means for land owners to enforce the rules which surrounded staking claims and mines’ ownership.
When people occupy land without owning it, this is called squatting. This problem was not limited to the old American West, but is in fact universally practiced by the poor or disenfranchised throughout the world. Practically all nations and territories of the world maintain some form of a system for land registration. With this system there is also a process for land claims utilized in order to work out any disputes surrounding land ownership and access.
International land law recognizes the territorial land rights of indigenous peoples. Besides this, country’s legal systems also acknowledge such land rights, calling them aboriginal title in many regions. In societies which still utilize customary law, land ownership is primarily exercised by customary land holding traditions.
Land rights also pertain to the inalienable abilities for individuals to freely purchase, use, and hold land according to their wishes. Naturally this assumes that their various endeavors on the property do not interfere with the rights of other members of society.
This should never be confused with the concepts of land access. Land access means that individuals have the rights to use a piece of property economically, as with farming or mining activities. Such access is considered to be far less secure than ownership of the land itself, since a person only using the property can be evicted from it at the whim of the land owner.
Land law also deals with the statutes which a nation sets out regarding the ownership of land. This can be difficult to reconcile in some countries as they have the more traditional customary land ideas such as group or individual land rights as part of their culture instead of legal understandings. This is why the various laws between land rights and land ownership have to be harmonious to prevent bitter disputes, fighting, and indigenous territorial standoffs.
Around the world, a growing focus on such land rights and the way these intersect with traditional laws on the land has emerged. Land ownership represents an important and often necessary for survival (in many cultures) source for food, water, resources, shelter, financial security, and even capital. This is why the United Nations Global Land Tool organization links landlessness in rural areas with both poverty and malnutrition.
It led to the Millennium Development Goal 7D which works to better the lives and livelihoods of around 100 million individual slum dwellers. This project is working to promote land rights and land ownership for poor people the world over in hopes that this will finally lead them to a higher quality of life and more stable and secure existence.