Usufruct

Usufruct refers to the legal right for a person to use property that is actually owned by another person.

Additional Sources

Answers.com

A civil law term referring to the right of one individual to use and enjoy the property of another, provided its substance is neither impaired nor altered.

For example, a usufructuary right would be the right to use water from a stream in order to generate electrical power. Such a right is distinguishable from a claim of legal ownership of the water itself.

Duhaime Legal Dictionary

The rights to the product of another's property.

FindLaw

The right to the use and enjoyment of another's property and its profits.

Lect Law Library

The right of enjoying a thing, the property of which is vested in another, and to draw from the same all the profit, utility and advantage which it may produce, provided it be without altering the substance of the thing.

The obligation of not altering the substance of the thing, however, takes place only in the case of a complete usufruct.

Usufructs are of two kinds; perfect and imperfect. Perfect usufruct, which is of things which the usufructuary can enjoy without altering their substance, though their substance may be diminished or deteriorated naturally by time or by the use to which they are applied; as a house, a piece of land, animals, furniture and other movable effects. Imperfect or quasi usufruct, which is of things which would be useless to the usufructuary if be did not consume and expend them, or change the substance of them, as money, grain, liquors.

The Free (Legal) Dictionary

A Civil Law term referring to the right of one individual to use and enjoy the property of another, provided its substance is neither impaired nor altered.

For example, a usufructuary right would be the right to use water from a stream in order to generate electrical power. Such a right is distinguishable from a claim of legal ownership of the water itself.

Wikipedia

Usufruct is the legal right to use and derive profit or benefit from property that belongs to another person, as long as the property is not damaged. In many legal usufruct systems of property, such as the traditional ejido system in Mexico, individuals or groups may only acquire the usufruct of the property, not legal land ownership.

Usufruct originates from civil law, where it is a real right of limited duration on the property of another. The holder of an usufruct, known as the usufructuary, has the right to use and enjoy the property, as well as the right to receive profits from the fruits of the property. The English word usufruct derives from the Latin expression usus et fructus, meaning "use and enjoyment".

In Roman Law, usufruct was a type of servitude or ius in re aliena, a right in another's property. The usufructuary never had possession of this property (on the basis that if he possessed at all, he did so through the owner), but he did have an in rem right to the property itself. Unlike the owner, he did not have the right of alienation (abusus), but he could sell or let his enjoyment of the usufruct. Despite the usufructuary's lack of possession a modified form of the possessory interdicts was available to him.

The term fruits should be understood to mean any replenishable commodity on the property, including (among others) actual fruits, livestock and even rental payments derived from the property. These may be divided into civil and natural fruits, the latter of which, in Roman law, included slaves and livestock.

In tribal cultures usufruct means the land is owned in common by the tribe, but families and individuals have the right to use certain plots of land. Most Indian tribes owned things like land as a group and not as individuals. The family never owned the land, they just farmed it. This is called usufruct land ownership. A person must make (more or less) continuous use of the item or else he loses ownership rights. This is usually referred to as "possession property" or "usufruct." Thus, in this usufruct system, absentee ownership is illegitimate.

The oldest example of usufruct is found in the Law of Moses, which directed property owners not to harvest the edges of their fields, and reserved the gleanings for the poor.

In Canada, Aboriginal people have an usufructuary right to hunt and fish without restriction on Crown lands.