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This course introduces students to the basic elements and principles of private law. It begins by looking at what the term private law means, the sources of private law and how the different areas of private law - especially property, contract, tort and unjust enrichment – relate to each other.

The bulk of the course is spent on the topics of contract and property law. In both cases, the course provides an introduction to materials that are expanded upon in later subjects. With respect to contract law, this course covers the formation of contracts and the doctrine of privity. Several other elements of contract law are dealt with later in the curriculum in Contracts. With respect to property law, this course considers the boundaries of the concept of property, as well as several of the rules with respect to the creation, transfer and protection of property rights. Again several other elements of property law are dealt with later in Land Law, and to some extent also in Equity and Trusts.

The course also introduces students to two smaller topics: agency and equitable estoppel. As well as being closely related to contracts and property, these are two important areas of law for practicing lawyers.

Main Topics

The Domain of Private Law

  • Private law, values and justice
  • Private law and public law distinguished
  • Origins and sources of private law
  • The categories of private law


  • Formation of contracts
  • Offer and acceptance
  • Intention to create legal relations
  • Consideration
  • Certainty of terms
  • Privity
  • Promissory estoppel


  • Definition of property
  • Licences, contractual and otherwise
  • New forms of property
  • Definition of land
  • Doctrine of fixtures
  • Personal property
  • Creation of property rights: original acquisition, voluntary/involuntary transfers
  • The concept of possession of land and goods
  • Bailment
  • Torts of trespass, detinue and conversion
  • Adverse possession/possessory title
  • Formal requirements for the transfer of interests in land
  • Proprietary estoppel


  • Fundamental principles
  • Distinction from other relationships, eg employment, sub-contract
  • The formation and consequences of agency.
Faculty Faculty of Law
Study Level


Offering Terms

Term 1, Term 3



Indicative contact hours


Conditions for Enrolment

Course Outline

To access course outline, please visit:


Pre-2019 Handbook Editions

Access past handbook editions (2018 and prior)

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