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Law: ownership and trusteeship: rights and responsibilities

This module examines the Foundations of Legal Knowledge in land law, equity and trusts. It considers the legal definition of land; the meaning of land ownership; how unregistered and registered titles to land are proved; and rules relating to trusts of land. You’ll also explore co-ownership and rights that can be acquired by third parties over land, including easements, covenants and mortgages – covering freehold and leasehold estates. Under equity and trusts you’ll consider ownership and transfer of property; the creation of trusts over property; rules relating to specific trusts including charities; discretionary and implied trusts; and the powers, duties and roles of trustees and fiduciaries. The module deals principally with the law of England and Wales.

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OU qualifications are modular in structure; the credits from this undergraduate-level module could count towards a certificate of higher education, diploma of higher education, foundation degree or honours degree.

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Module code
Study level
3 10 6
Study method
Distance Learning
Module cost
See Module registration
Entry requirements
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What you will study

This OU level 3 module is intended for students who already have a good knowledge of the English legal system and method, building on the knowledge and skills developed in Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to the law (W100), Understanding law (W200), Law: the individual and the state (W201) and Law: agreements, rights and responsibilities (W300). It covers two of the Foundations of Legal Knowledge: (1) Land Law and (2) Equity and Trusts.

The module tries to ensure that you can appreciate and deal with any overlap between the two subjects. It will enable you to:

  • understand the legal definition of land
  • appreciate what is meant by ownership of land and the problems caused by shared ownership of land
  • explain how ownership of land is transferred from one person to another, under both the unregistered and registered systems of ownership
  • recognise the situations where land will be held under a trust and how that trust will operate
  • identify rights – easements, covenants, licences and mortgages – which a person can exercise over someone else’s land and the precise nature of these rights
  • appreciate the nature of leasehold property
  • appreciate how various types of property are owned and transferred
  • appreciate what constitutes a valid trust
  • recognise the role of trusts in family wills, lifetime gifts and also in commercial fields
  • identify the detailed rules relating to specific trusts such as charitable trusts, resulting and constructive trusts and discretionary trusts
  • appreciate the office of trustee
  • identify the powers and duties of trustees and the relevance of fiduciary duties to company directors, partners and others
  • appreciate the remedies which are available against trustees and other fiduciaries
  • apply the legal concepts encountered to factual scenarios, developing skills of analysis and problem-solving.

In addition to knowledge and understanding the module will provide you with an opportunity to develop subject specific and general study skills suitable for study at OU level 3. These include the ability to:

  • assimilate and organise extensive factual and legal material, and present a reasoned, coherent and personal view
  • devise a strategy for resolving issues by application of legal principles
  • evaluate and make critical judgement of the merits of particular arguments
  • formulate and construct a reasoned response to complex and conflicting opinions
  • access, comprehend and use paper based and online legal resources
  • perform directed research tasks, select relevant issues for research and devise a strategy for researching a topic.

Professional recognition

If you are intending to use this module as part of the LLB, and you hope to enter the Legal Professions, you should read carefully the careers information on The Open University Law School website. There are different entry regulations into the legal professions in England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You should read the information on the website as it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet these requirements.

Outside the UK

Please note that this module is only concerned with the law of England and Wales.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will be allocated a tutor who will give you guidance on your work, and who will offer academic support wherever possible. Your tutor will assess and give feedback on your module assignments. There will be a research day, involving the use of a law library and electronic resources to carry out legal research exercises in Land Law and Equity. It will be held at one of the College of Law’s branches. We expect to offer group tutorials which may be face to face or, in some sparsely populated areas may be offered online. Where your tutorials are held will depend on the distribution of students taking the module. Although you are not obliged to attend any of these, you are strongly encouraged to take part. 

Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

Future availability

The details given here are for the module that starts in October 2014. 


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Course satisfaction survey

See the satisfaction survey results for this course.


This is an OU level 3 module. OU level 3 modules build on study skills and subject knowledge acquired from studies at OU levels 1 and 2. They are intended only for students who have recent experience of higher education in a related subject, preferably with the OU.

This module will be a good choice if you have taken Rules, rights and justice: an introduction to law (W100), Understanding law (W200), Law: the individual and the state (W201) and Law: agreements, rights and responsibilities (W300) and intend to obtain a qualifying law degree, or if you have studied the law before, have an up-to-date knowledge of the Foundations of Legal Knowledge and want to develop your understanding. This could be either out of general interest or because some legal knowledge would be useful in your work.

The module assumes that you already have knowledge and understanding of the law, particularly the Foundations of Legal Knowledge, and we strongly advise you to study W100, W200, W201 and W300 first. 

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


Start End England fee Register
03 Oct 2015 Jun 2016 Not yet available

Registration opens on 12/03/15

This module is expected to start for the last time in October 2018.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your annual fees and spreads them out over up to a year, enabling you to pay your fees monthly and walk away with a qualification without any further debt. APR 5.1% representative.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).  

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU qualifications are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to achieve one. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the qualification you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your modules.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Maestro (UK only), Mastercard, Visa/Delta and Visa Electron. 

Gift vouchers

You can pay for part or all of your tuition fees with OU gift vouchers. Vouchers are currently available in the following denominations, £10, £20, £50 and £100. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. You may, for example wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

For more information about combining payment options, speak to an adviser or request a call back.

Note: Your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and therefore the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fees and funding information provided here is based upon current details for  year 1 August 2014 to 31 July 2015.
This information was provided on 31/10/2014.

What's included

Module books, other printed materials and access to certain legal databases.
The study materials are updated annually, but it may be necessary to update during your study of the module if there is a major (and unexpected) change to the law.

You will need

This module may offer online tutorials in the future, in which case you will need a headset with a microphone and earphones to take part.

Computing requirements

You will need a computer with internet access to study this module as it includes online activities, which you can access using a web browser.

  • If you have purchased a new desktop or laptop computer since 2008 you should have no problems completing the online activities.
  • If you’ve got a netbook, tablet or other mobile device check our Technical requirements section.
  • If you use an Apple Mac you will need OS X 10.7 or later.

You can also visit the Technical requirements section for further computing information (including details of the support we provide).

If you have a disability

The written study material is available in a comb-bound format and written transcripts are available for the audio-visual material. The study materials (excluding text books) may be available on CD-ROM in Adobe (PDF) format. Some components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader and mathematical, scientific, and foreign language materials may be particularly difficult to read in this way. You will need to spend time using a personal computer and the internet.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.