Bruce Huber, ‘Negative-Value Property’

Ownership is commonly regarded as a powerful tool for environmental protection and an essential solution to the tragedy of the commons. But conventional property analysis downplays the possibility of negative-value property, a category which includes contaminated, depleted, or derelict sites. Owners have little incentive to retain or restore negative-value property and much incentive to alienate it. Although the law formally prohibits the abandonment of real property, avenues remain by which owners may functionally abandon negative-value property, as demonstrated recently by busts in certain coal and oil & gas markets. When negative-value property is abandoned, whether formally or functionally, the rehabilitation of such property typically requires public expenditure – an externality which cuts against property’s general and salutary tendency to internalize spillovers at a low social cost. The existence of negative-value property, as well as its increasing abundance, reveals an underdeveloped aspect of property theory and a pressing need to fortify legal mechanisms that prevent abandonment and enforce owners’ financial responsibility for severely degraded property.

Huber, Bruce R, Negative-Value Property (August 20, 2021). Washington University Law Review, volume 98, no 1461, forthcoming.

First posted 2021-08-24 11:00:36

Leave a Reply