Possibility Of Reverter

Possibility Of Reverter
Possibility Of Reverter
Quick Summary of Possibility Of Reverter

A possibility of reverter is a legal concept that refers to the right of a grantor to regain ownership of a property if certain conditions are not met. This concept is commonly used in real estate transactions, where a grantor may include a possibility of reverter clause in the deed to ensure that the property will revert back to them if the grantee fails to fulfil certain obligations. The possibility of reverter provides a form of protection for the grantor and helps to ensure that the property is used in accordance with the agreed-upon terms.

Full Definition Of Possibility Of Reverter

The concept of the “Possibility of Reverter” is an important aspect of property law, particularly in the context of future interests in land. This legal doctrine pertains to the rights retained by a grantor after conveying a property interest to a grantee, under certain conditions that may trigger the reversion of the property back to the original owner or their heirs. This comprehensive overview explores the historical background, legal framework, practical applications, and contemporary relevance of the Possibility of Reverter within British law.

Historical Background

Origins in Common Law

The doctrine of the Possibility of Reverter has its roots in the common law tradition, evolving through centuries of judicial interpretation and statutory development. Historically, this concept was intertwined with the feudal system, where land ownership and transfer were governed by complex tenures and obligations. The Possibility of Reverter emerged as a mechanism to ensure that land granted for specific purposes, such as religious or charitable uses, would revert to the grantor if those purposes ceased to be fulfilled.

Development in British Jurisprudence

Over time, British courts have shaped the contours of the Possibility of Reverter through a series of landmark cases. These decisions have clarified the conditions under which a reverter can occur, the nature of the interests involved, and the rights of the parties. This historical evolution has established a robust framework for understanding and applying the doctrine in contemporary property law.

Legal Framework

Definition and Nature

The Possibility of Reverter is classified as a future interest in property law. It arises when a grantor conveys a fee simple determinable estate to a grantee, with the condition that the estate will automatically revert to the grantor if a specified event or condition occurs. Unlike a right of re-entry, which requires the grantor to take affirmative action to reclaim the property, the Possibility of Reverter operates automatically upon the occurrence of the condition.

Key Characteristics

  1. Automatic Reversion: The hallmark of a Possibility of Reverter is its automatic nature. Upon the occurrence of the specified condition, the property reverts to the grantor without the need for any legal action.
  2. Condition Subsequent: The triggering condition must be clearly defined and must relate to the use or duration of the estate granted. Common conditions include the property being used for a particular purpose, such as a school or church.
  3. Retention of Interest: The grantor retains a future interest in the property, which remains dormant until the condition is triggered.

Creation and Language

The creation of a Possibility of Reverter requires specific language in the conveyance instrument. Phrases such as “so long as,” “while,” “during,” or “until” are typically used to denote the determinable nature of the estate. The precise wording is crucial, as courts strictly interpret these conditions to ascertain the grantor’s intent.

Practical Applications

Real Property Transactions

In real property transactions, the Possibility of Reverter serves as a powerful tool for grantors to ensure that their wishes and intentions regarding the use of the property are honoured. This mechanism is often employed in the context of charitable donations, where a grantor donates land for a specific public purpose, with the stipulation that the land will revert if it ceases to be used as intended.

Land Use and Zoning

Local governments and municipalities may also utilise the Possibility of Reverter in zoning and land use planning. By attaching conditions to land grants, authorities can promote desired land uses and prevent undesirable changes. For instance, land granted for a public park may revert to the municipality if it is no longer used for recreational purposes.

Challenges and Litigation

The enforcement of a Possibility of Reverter can give rise to legal disputes, particularly regarding the interpretation of the triggering condition and the rights of the parties involved. Courts are often called upon to determine whether the condition has been met and to resolve conflicts between current occupants and the original grantor or their heirs.

Contemporary Relevance

Modern Real Estate Practices

In modern real estate practices, the Possibility of Reverter continues to play a significant role, although its application has evolved with changing societal and legal landscapes. The doctrine remains relevant in situations where grantors seek to impose long-term conditions on property use, particularly in charitable, educational, and public service contexts.

Legislative Reforms

Recent legislative reforms in property law have aimed to balance the interests of grantors and grantees, providing greater clarity and certainty in the application of the Possibility of Reverter. These reforms address issues such as the duration of reverter interests, the requirement for registration, and the rights of third parties.

Comparative Analysis

A comparative analysis with other jurisdictions reveals both similarities and differences in the treatment of the Possibility of Reverter. While the core principles remain consistent, variations in statutory provisions and judicial interpretations reflect the unique legal and cultural contexts of different countries.


The Possibility of Reverter is a nuanced and multifaceted doctrine within British property law, offering a mechanism for grantors to retain future interests in land and enforce conditions on its use. Its historical development, legal framework, and practical applications underscore its enduring significance. As real estate practices and societal needs continue to evolve, the Possibility of Reverter will remain a vital tool for shaping the use and ownership of land, balancing the interests of grantors, grantees, and the broader community.

Possibility Of Reverter FAQ'S

A possibility of reverter is a legal term that refers to a future interest in property that automatically reverts back to the original owner if a specific condition is not met.

The purpose of a possibility of reverter is to ensure that the original owner retains control over the property and that it is used in accordance with their wishes.

An example of a possibility of reverter is a deed that grants land to a city for use as a park, but stipulates that if the land is ever used for any other purpose, it will automatically revert back to the original owner.

A possibility of reverter lasts for as long as the condition specified in the deed is not met.

Yes, a possibility of reverter can be transferred to another person through a legal instrument such as a deed or will.

Yes, a possibility of reverter can be waived by the original owner through a legal instrument such as a deed or contract.

If the condition specified in the deed is met, the possibility of reverter is extinguished, and the original owner no longer has any interest in the property.

Yes, the possibility of reverter can be enforced by a court if the original owner or their heirs seek to reclaim the property.

If the original owner dies before the condition specified in the deed is met, their heirs or beneficiaries may inherit the possibility of reverter and have the right to reclaim the property.

No, a possibility of reverter can only be created for real property (land and buildings).

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 6th June 2024.

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