Understanding Personal Servitudes: Rights to Use and Enjoy Others’ Property

In legal terms, a personal servitude refers to the right granted to a specific person (known as the holder) to utilize and enjoy someone else’s property. This privilege is always in favour of the designated individual. Personal servitudes can be enforced against the property owner, but the holder cannot transfer this right to another person. Let’s explore the three types of personal servitudes: usufruct, usus, and habitatio.

Usufruct: Enjoying Property Benefits for a Limited Time

Usufruct entails the right to live in or use someone else’s property, enabling the holder to derive advantages and profits from it for a specific period. During this time, it is crucial to responsibly maintain and protect the property to ensure its well-being. For example, if a husband leaves a house to his children but grants his wife the usufruct right until her passing, she can continue to live in and benefit from the property during her lifetime, despite the children technically owning it. This right is officially recorded in the Deeds Office and can be enforced against anyone, including the property owner.

See this article for more on the topic.

Usus: Restricted Use with Some Flexibility

Usus, similar to usufruct, permits the holder to possess and utilize someone else’s property. However, there are more limitations on the rights of the holder. If the property is movable, the holder can possess and use it. In the case of immovable property, the holder and their family can live in it. While the holder can enjoy the property’s produce for daily needs, selling or leasing the property to others is generally not allowed. Nonetheless, there are a few exceptions. For instance, if the property is too large for the holder’s use, they may rent out a portion of it. It is important for the holder to use the property without causing harm or damage.

Habitatio: Residing in Another’s House without Detriment

Habitatio refers to the right of a person and their family to live in someone else’s house without causing harm to the property. The holder of habitatio can even rent or sublet the house to others. It is a lifelong right to reside in a house owned by someone else. This right is officially recorded in the Deeds Office and can be enforced against anyone, including the property owner. The holder of habitatio has the permanent right to live in the property or even rent it out, but they do not have the right to benefit from any profits or advantages of ownership. This arrangement allows the holder to reside in another person’s house while ensuring the property remains intact. The holder also has the option to sublet the property or transfer the habitatio right to someone else.

See this relevant case study involving the interpretation of a will and the granting of habitatio rights over an already occupied property.

Understanding personal servitudes is crucial when it comes to the rights and limitations associated with utilizing and enjoying someone else’s property. Whether it is usufruct, usus, or habitatio, these legal arrangements provide individuals with the ability to use and reside in properties owned by others. By comprehending the specifics of each type of personal servitude, individuals can navigate these arrangements more effectively and make informed decisions regarding property usage.