Definition of "De Jure"

David  Stephens real estate agent

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David Stephenselite badge icon

Coldwell Banker Schiavone & Associates

The term “de jure” comes from the Latin “by law” or “by right” and is commonly used to describe something that exists according to the law or by right. While the most popular use of the term is in the practice of law and almost always can be replaced by “as a matter of law”, it can also be applied to the real estate market. In both fields, the term “de jure” is contrasted with “de facto”.

The term de jure can be defined as a practice that is legally recognized even if the practice isn’t applied in reality, by law it stands but practice doesn’t do anything to establish it. Something that is legal by law, doesn’t necessarily have to be in fact real. For instance, you can be the legal owner of a car even if you have a driver that’s at the wheel even when you aren’t occupying the car. Similarly, a car rental is the legal owner of the car, but he allows his daughter to drive one car in a de facto manner without any paperwork that attests that she doesn’t have the legal right to that car.

De Jure Possession

When it comes to real estate possession, there are two types of possession that real estate agents and homeowners need to take into consideration. While a de facto possession does not entail any legal right of the property’s inhabitants, the de jure possession is that of the owner of the property.

De jure possession is applicable when the owner of property claims their ownership through legal manners, papers, or contracts that can not be disputed by another party that may claim their right of ownership. This de jure possession does not require physical occupation or possession in order to be enforced. It can not be disputed unless a real estate transaction takes place in which the de jure possession changes hands to the new owner.

Seeing as the de jure possession is linked to the legal right to possess a property, it is not limited to homeownership. For instance, a renter with a lease agreement is also in de jure possession of the property seeing as there is a legal agreement between the owner and the renter that allows the renter to occupy the property. 

To make the distinction clear, if the de jure renter invites a friend to stay over and live there, even if the renter leaves for several days and leaves their friend to use the property, the visitor is a de facto possessor of the property, while the renter remains the de jure possessor of the property.

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