What are emblements?

Emblements (pronounced: em-ble-ments), also known as fructus industriales, are annual crops cultivated to be sold which are grown on a parcel of land leased to a tenant by a landowner. Legally, the crops are the personal property of the tenant who cultivated and raised them, not the owner of the underlying land.

When the tenant loses possession of the land where the crops are grown, the emblements remain the personal property of the tenant and they are entitled to harvest them at the end of the season.

Emblements also raise the issue of inheritance in the event of a tenant’s death. When a tenant dies and their contract with the landlord is terminated, any crops the tenant cultivated become the property of their heirs or next of kin, not the owner of the land.

Further, emblements may present issues to those buying or selling a home. For example, buyers may not be aware that crops grown on the property they are buying belong to someone else.

Emblements versus fructus naturales

For emblements to qualify as the property of the tenant, the crops need to be cultivated, not naturally occurring.

Consider a tenant who lives on a ten-acre tract of land leased from their landlord. The tenant decides to till a ¼ of an acre of the land in order to plant tomatoes, peas, carrots and radishes. The tenant spends significant time and effort cultivating the crops until they are grown and ready to be sold.

The crops in this scenario are considered emblements, whereas something naturally occurring like wild blackberries are not.

Natural fixtures to the land, referred to as fructus naturales, include:

  • trees;
  • shrubs; and
  • grass

Things attached to the earth naturally are real estate.

History behind the word

The word emblement has origins in both the Middle English and Anglo-French languages. In Middle English, emblement stems from the word emblayment. In Anglo-French, emblement comes from emblaement, from emblaer meaning to sow with grain.

The modern term and meaning of emblement stems from the 15th century.