Last year I read a case in my property textbook that has stuck with me. It illustrates the ways that seemingly generic laws are used to empower the powerful at the expense of the weak.
has a piece of property. Tenant A is currently in possession and will
be moving out, and Tenant B has signed a lease to takeover the premises.
If Tenant A does not move out, who should be responsible for taking the
time and trouble to evict Tenant A? The Landlord, or Tenant B who has
already signed a lease and has the legal rights to the use of the
its face it is a strait forward question. There are pros and cons on
both sides. We simply need to pick a rule and apply it consistently so
that the market will know what to expect. For some, as long as the
rules are followed, that is justice. Which rule we use is not a
question of justice. This is not a particularly moral question.
is a certain logic to requiring the person who now wants to use the
land, and who has the legal right to the land, the lease holder, to get
rid of the person who has overstayed their lease. But who is more than
likely to know that Tenant A will not be moving out, and is in fact
three months behind on their rent. Would Tenant B know anything about
this? In fact, it is quite possible that the Landlord might rent the
property to Tenant B so he could get paid knowing full well that Tenant A
was not going anywhere without a fight. Meanwhile, the Landlord is
trying to collect rent from both parties, and has shifted this problem
to the unwitting Tenant B who had no idea what was going on prior to him
leasing the land.