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Asymmetric Information and the Law of Servitudes Governing Land

  • Antony Dnes
  • Dean Lueck

The legal doctrine on servitudes has long been viewed as a Byzantine tangle of doctrine emanating from property law, contract law, and courts of equity. This paper explains the structure of the law governing servitudes on land using key ideas from the economics of information, focusing on easements and covenants and the rules governing their formation and application. We develop a model of land markets that incorporates asymmetric information (adverse selection) and specialization in ownership and use this to offer a rationale for the seemingly ad hoc limits on the use of servitudes. We stress the inability of sellers of land credibly to assure buyers that land is not encumbered by servitudes. Our model explains variations in legal doctrine over time and across jurisdictions, particularly comparing servitudes in the United States and in England. (c) 2009 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/590067
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Article provided by University of Chicago Press in its journal The Journal of Legal Studies.

Volume (Year): 38 (2009)
Issue (Month): 1 (01)
Pages: 89-120

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Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlstud:v:38:y:2009:i:1:p:89-120
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.journals.uchicago.edu/JLS/

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  1. Arrunada, Benito & Garoupa, Nuno, 2005. "The Choice of Titling System in Land," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 48(2), pages 709-27, October.
  2. Barzel, Yoram, 1982. "Measurement Cost and the Organization of Markets," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 25(1), pages 27-48, April.
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  4. W. Bentley MacLeod, 2007. "Reputations, Relationships, and Contract Enforcement," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 45(3), pages 595-628, September.
  5. Hansmann, Henry & Kraakman, Reinier, 2002. "Property, Contract, and Verification: The Numerus Clausus Problem and the Divisibility of Rights," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 31(2), pages S373-420, June.
  6. Gary D. Libecap & Dean Lueck, 2009. "The Demarcation of Land and the Role of Coordinating Institutions," ICER Working Papers 14-2009, ICER - International Centre for Economic Research.
  7. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1991. "Multitask Principal-Agent Analyses: Incentive Contracts, Asset Ownership, and Job Design," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 7(0), pages 24-52, Special I.
  8. Buchanan, James M & Yoon, Yong J, 2000. "Symmetric Tragedies: Commons and Anticommons," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 43(1), pages 1-13, April.
  9. Gary D. Libecap & Dean Lueck, 2009. "The Demarcation of Land and the Role of Coordinating Institutions," NBER Working Papers 14942, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Otto A. Davis & Andrew Whinston, 1962. "Externalities, Welfare, and the Theory of Games," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 70, pages 241-241.
  11. George A. Akerlof, 1970. "The Market for "Lemons": Quality Uncertainty and the Market Mechanism," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 84(3), pages 488-500.
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