What is Seisin?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Seisin is a legal term dating to the Middle Ages used in reference to someone who both owns and possesses land. This concept was particularly important in the feudal era, where land ownership conferred certain social and legal rights not available to people who didn't own property. Today, it is less commonly encountered as a legal concept, although it remains on the books in some nations.

Woman posing
Woman posing

It is possible to own property without possessing it, as seen when people own property and lease or rent it to others. A landlord retains ownership of a home while it is used by tenants, but does not have possession. Conversely, the tenant possesses the home, but does not own it. Ownership and possession are distinct concepts, each conferring certain rights. For instance, landlords can collect rents, while tenants have the right to privacy and do not have to open their homes to their landlords without prior arrangements, with the exception of emergencies where there is a clear danger to life, health, or property.

Someone who holds seisin both owns the property and has taken possession. Some regions distinguish between whether this is “in fact” or “in deed.” A person who holds seisin in fact has clear title and possession rights, but has not yet enforced those rights, as seen when a person inherits a house from a relative. By moving into the house, that person would take possession “in deed,” with an action clearly intended to exert physical rights over the property.

A person who both holds seisin, owning and possessing, has more legal rights over the property than someone who just owns or just possesses. There are limits to these rights; people usually must use and develop property within certain boundaries, and property can be seized in certain legal situations. Property used as collateral on a loan can be taken by the lender and governments also have seizure rights for nonpayment of taxes and certain types of criminal activity.

Regional laws about the rights of property owners, as well as people who possess property without holding title vary considerably, depending on how their legal systems are structured. People uncertain about whether a given activity is legal when they hold seisin can consult an attorney who specializes in property law to get more information. For people who think their property rights are being abridged, it is important to get legal assistance as soon as possible. In some communities, free legal services are available to low income people.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Even if you have clear title and hold seisin, there are some circumstances where rights to your property, or part of it, are limited. Some homeowners who live in a neighborhood nearby, are up-in-arms because the road by their houses is being widened and the county will be taking some of their property.

Sadly, some of them will be left with a very small backyard, and a busy road very close. But, new homeowners need to be aware and read the document about "right-of-way" for roads and utilities. It happens all the time.

The only thing they can do is convince the county officials that the road doesn't need to be widened. Of course, other people along the road are complaining that the road is getting too congested.


@MsClean - Real property and seisin are not exactly the same thing. As mentioned in my previous post, seisin means to take possession. While real property includes all property that is attached directly to the land and the land itself.

It includes buildings, structures, and all rights and interests of the land. Real property can either be residential or rental property.


What is the definition of real property? Is it the same thing as seisin?


From reading this article, it seems that the term seisin is a legal term that means owning land. Even in the early days of our country, land owners had certain rights, like voting, and those who just leased land couldn't vote. I guess that in those days, money was needed for land ownership and so if you had money, you were intelligent enough to vote. Go figure.

But today, land ownership doesn't give you any special political or social rights. So this idea of seisin doesn't really apply today in this country. You do have rights having to do with your own property, like renting it to someone else, or making changes to your house or yard.


@goldensky - A covenant of seisin, when referring to the title on your home, means that you own the property and you have the right to convey it or live in it. It means you have possession.

The legal possession of a property on some warranty deeds is worded as the covenant of quiet enjoyment, which to my understanding, is synonymous to the word seisin.


I noticed that in the state of Florida, a deed will include seisin in the covenants and warranties among other things. What does a covenant of seisin mean?

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