The bundle of rights
is a common way to explain the complexities of property ownership. Teachers often use this concept as a way to organize confusing and sometimes contradictory data
about real estate.
The bundle of rights is commonly taught in US first-year law school
property classes to explain how a property can simultaneously be "owned" by multiple parties. The term, "bundle of rights," likely came into use during the late 19th century and continued to gain ground thereafter. Prior to that, the idea of property entailed more the owner's dominion over a thing, placing restrictions on others
from "messing" with the owner's property. "Bundle of rights," however, implies rules specifying, proscribing, or authorizing actions on the part of the owner.
Ownership of land is a much more complex proposition than simply acquiring all the rights to it. It is useful to imagine a bundle of rights that can be separated and reassembled. A "bundle of sticks" - in which each stick represents an individual right - is a common analogy
made for the bundle of rights. Any property owner
possesses a set of "sticks" related directly to the land.
For example, perfection
of a mechanic's lien
takes some, but not all, rights out of the bundle held by the owner. Extinguishing that lien
returns those rights or "sticks" to the bundle held by the owner. In the United States (and under common law) the fullest possible title to real estate is called "fee simple absolute
." Even the US federal government's ownership of land is restricted in some ways by state property law