Real Estate Alphabet Soup: Y Is for Yard

Miles & Stockbridge P.C.

In my last post, “Real Estate Alphabet Soup: X Is for X-factor” I continued my primer on the “alphabet soup” of real estate. This post continues to stir the “alphabet soup” with the letter Y.

Y is for “Yard.” Not a “yard” in the sense of a precise linear measurement, but rather, a “yard” in the sense of the open area situated around buildings and structures. Although, of course, there are precise measurements required to determine the location, boundaries and area of a “yard.”

Webster’s Dictionary defines “yard” as “a small, usually walled and often paved area open to the sky and adjacent to a building”. When hearing the word “yard” many of us may immediately think of the grassy back yard where we grew up playing, and where we relax, recreate and enjoy the outdoors. A “yard” may also be a paved or unpaved storage or maintenance yard surrounding buildings in a business or industrial area. Or a “yard” may be a stockyard adjacent to barns to contain livestock.

With respect to one’s residential “yard” there is a legal concept of “curtilage.” Webster’s Dictionary defines “curtilage” as “a piece of ground (as a yard or a courtyard) within the fence surrounding a house.” Barron’s Law Dictionary defines “curtilage” as, “at common law the land around a dwelling house” and “a piece of ground within the common enclosure belonging to a dwelling house, and enjoyed with it, for its more convenient occupation.”

Years ago during law school I was tasked with writing a report on the privacy rights a property owner has in his or her property, specifically, one’s house, and what part of the property is protected by the expectation of privacy, or not. Because, although one may have an expectation of privacy in that portion of a “yard” considered as the “curtilage” of a property, one may not have a similar expectation of privacy in those portions of the “yard” lying outside of the “curtilage”, such as the area lying outside of the boundaries of any fence or wall, or the area located along the street, sidewalk or curb. Land or a “yard” that is considered to be a part of the “curtilage” is protected by the constitutional prohibition against unreasonable searches. Once outside the boundaries of the “curtilage”; however, the remainder of the “yard” may not be similarly protected.

They say “good fences make good neighbors.” A fence, wall or hedge around a “yard” may provide a property owner with privacy and protection. But that same fence may also define and establish the “curtilage” of a yard to protect a property owner from unreasonable searches and the invasion of one’s privacy. And isn’t that what all of us as property owners desire after all, to have the “peaceful and quiet enjoyment” of our “yard” and property?

In my next post, I will move on to the letter “Z”, the final letter and ingredient in this recipe of real estate “alphabet soup.”

Opinions and conclusions in this post are solely those of the author unless otherwise indicated. The information contained in this blog is general in nature and is not offered and cannot be considered as legal advice for any particular situation. Any federal tax advice provided in this communication is not intended or written by the author to be used, and cannot be used by the recipient, for the purpose of avoiding penalties which may be imposed on the recipient by the IRS. Please contact the author if you would like to receive written advice in a format which complies with IRS rules and may be relied upon to avoid penalties.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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