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Legal Glossary - L


Lease / Leasehold estate

A property interest in return for payments of rent (or otherwise as agreed), entitling the leasholder to exclusive possession of land and buildings on it, and imparting a certain range of rights and obligations. A lease can only be over an entire property title, unless there are strata within the title, in which case the lease concerns a particular stratum. The parties are entitled to privity of estate, and the tenant is entitled to unrestricted access to the property. The landlord cannot enter the property without the tenant’s consent, or interfere with the tenant’s agreed usage of the property. Failing these conditions in the agreement, it is not a leasehold estate, but a licence to occupy.


Legal personality

The status of being recognised by the law as a person, in terms that one can sue and be sued in one’s own name and hold and transfer property in one’s own name. Animals, loosely associated groups and geographic places do not have legal personality.


Legal title

The title held by the ultimate owner of an item of property. On its own, legal title amounts only to nominal ownership, but it is normally accompanied by full and total rights to control the item of property. Legal title is normally derived from purchasing the property in one’s own name using one’s own money. Competing rights exist which compromise the rights of the legal title holder – see property rights. In the case of real property, legal title is registered (under the Torrens system) or declared in the form of a deed. It cannot be obtained without a written document: see Statute of Frauds.

Legal title to goods is obtained simply by payment to the previous holder of legal title. The right of control obtained by transfer of legal title is compromised by the existence of other forms of property rights held by other parties.



A general term referring both to Acts of Parliament and to Regulations. Synonym: Statute.



The status of owing a legal obligation. Having committed an unlawful act a person becomes liabile to another to pay damages, to pay a fine (to the crown/state), or to incur a court order such as an injunction or similar.



A personal right granted to a person (the licensee) to do, or continue doing, a certain thing that would otherwise be unlawful. In particular, such as to enter or remain on the licensor’s property for a specific purpose. A licence may often be granted in writing for regular payments, as is normal in agreements between shopping centres and the retailers occupying premises inside them. It is also implied by conduct, either in return for an up-front payment, or granted gratuitously, as is common when patrons enter an entertainment or sporting venues, a shop, or any private property that is unobstructed. A licence can be revoked if the licensee breaches the reasonable expectations or written conditions as to their conduct, held by the licensor. Compare with lease.



A form of equitable property right used to assert security over property to ensure repayment of money or performance of an obligation. This includes the more specific rights of real estate mortgage and chattel mortgage. There is also the bailment. The party receiving the property right is the lienee and the party giving it is the lienor.

Another usage of the lien is when a company takes a security interest over the shares of any of its members who are indebted to it for calls on other shares.

Synonym: security interest.



Any party to a matter before a court.



The process of bringing any matter before a court and of arguing a case at court. Litigation commences with an interlocutory phase, and then proceeds to trial, either by judge alone, or by judge and jury. It may then go on to appeal and even a second appeal to the High Court.


Limitation period

A period set as a maximum delay in bringing a matter to court. The limitation period for most civil actions is six years, but limitation periods vary considerably for different kinds of matters and in different jurisdictions. There is no limitation period on serious criminal law matters. See also Statute of Limitations.



A liquidator may be appointed by a court to sell the assets of a corporation so that all of its financial obligations are met as fully as possible. Employees gain first priority, then creditors, then shareholders. For practical reasons payouts are rarely or never the full amount owing. Liquidation almost always results in termination of the corporation’s registration with ASIC.


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