This subject has a pretty bad reputation. People fail, badly, and it used to be closed book!
But now there is a generous amount of marks for (quite easy) class tests. And, the mid-semester and final exams are open book. There are marvellous lecturers. You definitely should not be scared of this subject. It is a lot of work, but it is manageable.
This subject concerns itself with rights in land – “real property.” You will find yourself spending 3/4 of the course trying to figure out the ranking of priorities between all the claimants. It sounds pretty simple!
Basically, you learn the background stuff (Tenure, Estates and Native Title, the meaning of land) and you learn the new Torrens Title System (priorities, indefeasibility and its exceptions). This makes up the content of your mid-semester exam (and, in my opinion, Torrens Title is the hardest topic in the course).
Then, you are on easy street, a light stroll of not to difficult 1 – 3 lecture topics (Old System Title, mortgages, co-ownership, easements, covenants and leases). These build on what you learn, and each topic can be summarised into a couple of pages of flowcharts — what I call topic skeletons (don’t worry, I’ll give ’em to you). These topics make up your final exam, and, from what I gather from my friends, last semester, most people did much better in the final exam than in the mid-semester test.
Geoffrey Moore’s textbook is very useful: together with the lectures presented, it provides a holistic view of the subject without bogging itself down too much in details. This remains the only textbook I have ever read cover to cover. However, where I found Mr. Moore’s textbook confusing, Prof. Butt’s textbook was very good, albeit a little long-winded.
Note, there were no in-class-tests during our Torrens Title section of the course, which lead me to fall a week or two behind in my note-making. Do not let this happen, Torrens Title is quite difficult to catch up on in the few days before mid-semester exams.
There are three main lecturers for this subject, Shaunnagh Dorsett (an amazing teacher, who speaks with good Powerpoint presentations and delivers the information in an understandable way — do not be put off by her apparent snappiness, she is absolutely lovely, and was happy to help students out in her office hours), Geoffrey Moore (a highly intelligent lecturer and practitioner who delivers his whole lectures from memory, and only writes up what is most necessary (e.g. his flow-chart of priorities in the Torrens Title System)) and a third teacher, who only delivers one lecture, but does it quite well.
I had an older tutor who was quite dry in the first tutorial, but warmed up as the semester went along. I would highly recommend that you try to get into Shaunnagh’s tutorial, she would definitely be better than the old guy.
Every week you have an in class test. It is usually about a single topic. It isn’t too hard. It goes for about 5-15 minutes, depending I guess, on the mood of the tutor: there doesn’t seem to be any real pattern. Your best two marks in these quizzes make up 20% of your final grade.
This is a gift. The tests are easy and the questions are not at all analytical — they test whether you have listened to the material, read the readings and made some notes. For example, we never once had a problem on whether something was a fixture or a chattel, but we did have a question on what court we would bring a certain cause of action in.
Just a quick hint: almost all the questions, here, refer to something that Shaunnagh has explicitly mentioned in the lectures — more often then not the questions do not go in to deeply on the textbook readings. Sometimes, however, they refer to the facts of the case discussed in the “skills question” part of the tutorial . As such, good lecture notes are essential in doing well in the in-class-tests. Here are mine, they are quite lengthy, but also thorough: Real Property Lecture Notes.
Further, I’d recommend doing as many tutorial questions before walking into the class as possible — you don’t have to spend too much time on them, just try to sketch out some answers and find some proper authorities. That way, if your way is totally wrong, you find out before the test, and if you get the answer right, you feel all warm and bubbly. The best way to learn Real Property is by planning and doing problem questions, so these tutorial answers can go far. Here are the answers I can find — I do not attest at all, however, to their correctness, as they were just rough sketches prepared for class: Tutorials1, Tutorials2, Tutorials3.
The mid-semester exam
The mid-semester exam is on Tenure, Estates and the meaning of land (this includes the fixture/chattel spiel) and Native Title, and on the Torrens Title System. Our exam was split three ways, with the first section on Tenure and native title, and the second two parts being problem questions on Torrens Title — no questions on Chattels/Fixtures, I was quite disappointed in that.
People generally did really well in the first part, and less well in the second part (which is not surprising, since it is much harder). There are tricksy bits in Torrens Title like determining when there is an exception to indefeasibility, and where it applies. Here, it is very important to have succinct notes, and to know the cases well enough that similar fact-scenarios trigger your memory of cases.
If you guys like, I can scan up my mid-semester exam, since they gave our exams back to us. Otherwise, my notes for the mid-semester exam are in the first section of the final exam notes below.
The final exams do not cover the content from the first half of the semester. They only cover 6 little (quite easy) topics. Most of my friends (and I) improved our marks in the final exam.
I brought my Real Property notes, the sample exams I had done, my lecture notes, and, most importantly, my craftily brief Real Property Skeletons provided me with a framework for every question they could ask.
After creating my notes and doing some past papers, the final exams turned out to be easy. This subject may seem daunting, and has a lot of content, but it is a good subject, and you can do well if you do your notes progressively, throughout the semester.