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Obligations as Property

20 Pages Posted: 19 Nov 2012 Last revised: 26 Nov 2012

John Tarrant

University of Western Australia - Faculty of Law

Date Written: November 18, 2012


A widely asserted proposition is that all property rights are rights in rem and that rights in personam, such as debts and bank accounts, are not property rights. The proposition was advocated by John Austin based on his interpretation of Roman law. The obvious difficulty with the proposition is that it is irreconcilable with the case law because a number of cases from ultimate appellant courts confirm that debts are property rights. The author examines relevant case law and interpretations of Roman law to argue that the proposition that all property rights are rights in rem is based on a misunderstanding of Roman law. The author concludes that the assertion should be rejected as erroneous. Debts in the form of money obligations owed by one person to another are indeed property rights.

Keywords: property rights, Roman Law, in rem, debts

Suggested Citation

Tarrant, John, Obligations as Property (November 18, 2012). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 34, No. 2, 2011; UWA Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2012-15. Available at SSRN: or

John Tarrant (Contact Author)

University of Western Australia - Faculty of Law ( email )

35 Stirling Highway
Crawley, Western Australia 6009

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