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Abandonment in real estate

The Act of Abandonment in Real Estate

Abandonment in real estate can be referred to as the act of surrendering a claim to, or interest in, a particular asset. In some other circles, it is believed to be the permitted withdrawal from a forward contract that is made for the purchase of deliverable securities, and also the act of allowing an option to expire unexercised.

Legal Dictionary defines Abandonment as “The surrender, relinquishment, disclaimer, or cession of property or of rights. Voluntary relinquishment of all right, title, claim, and possession, with the intention of not reclaiming it.”

Abandonment in real estate includes both the intention to abandon and the external act by which the intention is carried into effect. In determining whether someone has abandoned property or rights, the intention is the first and paramount object of inquiry, for there can be no abandonment without the intention to abandon.

Abandonment in real estate differs from surrender in that surrender requires an agreement, and also from Forfeiture, in that forfeiture may be against the intention of the party alleged to have forfeited.


1. Corporations will generally abandon assets or projects that no longer offer any profitability. In most instances, proper legal documents must be filed with authorities and any damages must be recouped.

2. Abandonment occurs in forward contracts that permit the purchasers to withdraw from the contract, rather than purchase the deliverable securities.

3. In many instances, an option may not be worthwhile or profitable to exercise and, therefore, the purchaser of the option will let the option expire without being exercised.


Various types of personal property—such as personal and household items—contracts, copyrights, inventions, and patents can be abandoned.

Certain rights and interests in real property, such as easements and leases, may also be abandoned. Supposing a ranch owner gives a shepherd an easement to use a path on her property so that the sheep can get to a watering hole. The shepherd later sells his flock and moves out of the state, never intending to return. This conduct demonstrates that the shepherd has abandoned the easement,since he stopped using the path and intends never to use it again.

Ownership of real property cannot be obtained because someone else abandoned it but may be gained through Adverse Possession.


Two things must occur for property to be abandoned: (1) an act by the owner that clearly shows that he or she has given up rights to the property; and (2) an intention that demonstrates that the owner has knowingly relinquished control over it.

Some clear action must be taken to indicate that the owner no longer wants his or her property. Any act is sufficient as long as the property is left free and open to anyone who comes along to claim it.

Inaction—that is, failure to do something with the property or non-use of it is not enough to demonstrate that the owner has relinquished rights to the property, even if such non use has gone on for a number of years.

farmer’s failure to cultivate his or her land or a quarry owner’s failure to take stone from his or her quarry, for example, does not mean that either person has abandoned interest in the property.

A person’s intention to abandon his or her property may be established by express language to that effect or it may be implied from the circumstances surrounding the owner’s treatment of the property, such as leaving it unguarded in a place easily accessible to the public.

The passage of time, although not an element of abandonment, may illustrate a person’s intention to abandon his or her property.



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