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Within civil law, usufruct refers to a limited right, also used in combined jurisdictions which unite two properties of interest a fructus and usus.

Fructus refers to the right of deriving profits from a possessed property. For example, by the sale of crops, lease of immovable property or annexed movables, entry taxing, etc.

Usus refers to the use and right of using or directly enjoying a possessed property, without making any alterations to the property.

The usufruct is either held in common ownership or granted in severalty, long as no damage occurs to the property and it is not destroyed. Meanwhile, abusus (literal translation, abuse) is a third civilian interest of property, enabling the right of alienating the possessed property, either by destroying or consumption for profit, or by the transfer of the property to another party (exchange, sale, or gift). Furthermore, a person who enjoys all three of the rights is considered to have full ownership.

In association with various usufructuary property systems, as with traditional ejido systems within Mexico, groups or individuals can only acquire a usufruct and not legal titles of the property. Therefore, usufructs are a directly equitable element of common law life estates with the exception of usufruct’s being allowed to be granted for a shorter term than the lifetime of the holder.


The term usufruct is derived from civil laws, where it is under the subordinate real right for duration limitations, typically an individual’s lifetime. Meanwhile, the usufruct holder is referred to as a usufructuary, and possesses the right of using (usus) the property while enjoying the fruits (fructus) it provides. Currently, the term fructus corresponds more or less with the profits an individual might earn, such as with the selling of the ‘fruits’ in figurative and literal senses, of leasing land or house.

In this case, fruits are referencing any type of renewable resources that is located on the property, including livestock, fruits, and rental payments from the property, among others. These fruits can be separated into several classifications, including industrial (fructus industrials), civil (fructus civiles), or natural fruits (fructus naturales), of which the latter included livestock and slaves alike in Roman law.

In Roman law, the term usufruct had been a form of personal servitude, which is a beneficial right within another person’s property. However, possession of property was never entitled to the usufructuary. This is based around the concept if property was possessed at all, it was done so through the property owner, meanwhile, the usufructuary had interest within the property for a period of time, either for a lifetime or a set number of years. Furthermore, the usufructuary, unlike the property owner did not have alienation rights, but was able to lease or sell his interest.

 Book II, Property, Ownership, and its ModificationsRepublic Act No. 386, The Civil Code of the Philippines (June 18, 1949), Chan Robles Law Library.