Accession in Real Estate Law: What You Need to Know

In property law, accession is a method of acquiring property by adding value to other property through labor or new raw materials.

Through a property law doctrine known as ‘accession’, ownership of property naturally carries with it the right to possess all of the things that are added to or produced by that property. If you are acquiring property or acquiring value through accession, it means that something of value has been added to the property through natural forces or through your own labor or investment.

Two Straightforward Examples of Property Ownership Through Accession

How does real property produce additional property? In practice, it can happen in a number of different ways. Perhaps the most simple example is the growing of vegetables or other farm produce on land. Imagine that you own several acres of farmland, and as a direct result of that ownership you also own the vegetables that are grown on that property. In some cases, certain high-value produce may be grown and cultivated through your own personal labor and investment. In other cases, things may grow on the land without you taking action at all. In either case, the right to possess and sell the produce is bestowed to the owner of the farmland automatically through the doctrine of accession. No action needs to be taken.

In some cases, property owners can also obtain additional land via accession. This is primarily an issue for property owners who own land that is on the coast, that surrounds a lake, or that has a river running through it. That water can naturally transform land. If the water alters a river bank, thereby adding land to your property, that new land could be yours. The doctrine of accession allows a property owner to take possession of natural deposits onto their land.

The Inverse: Property Can Be Lost Through Avulsion

The doctrine of accession has mirror image counterparts. One of these counterparts is commonly referred to as avulsion. The same natural forces that can add to your property also have the potential to take away from it. Instead of depositing additional soot and soil on your riverbank, the moving water could slowly wear it away. This loss of property is known as avulsion. Avulsion can occur in other ways as well. For example, if an earthquake breaks up land, you could lose ownership rights to the lost property.

Real Estate Exam Study Tip #1: Know How Property Can Be Obtained

While working day to day as a real estate broker or as a real estate agent, most professionals do not run into cases regarding the issue of ‘accession’ very often. Still, it can happen. The real estate licensure exam is designed to ensure that real estate brokers are prepared for that and for any other common property law issues that they might run into. In studying for the exam, it is crucial that you pay careful attention to all of the ways in which property can be obtained under United States law, including accession, accretion, annexation, and reliction. The better you understand your terms, the easier it will be to pass the test.

Real Estate Exam Study Tip #2: Be Ready to Define ‘Accession’

How is accession going to figure into your real estate exam? It is impossible to say for sure. Test makers can ask about this concept in a number of different ways. For this reason, it is crucial that you understand accession and understand its general implications.

Still, in the majority of cases, test takers are typically asked to define the term accession. You should be ready to answer a multiple choice question that asks you what accession means or that asks you to pick out an example of accession. Remember, accession is the addition of new land or new value to property.

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