What Are Emblements?

Emblements are annual crops grown by a tenant on someone else's land. The crops are treated as the tenant's personal property and not the landowner's. If a tenant somehow loses possession of the land on which the crops grow, the tenant is still entitled to finish raising the crops and harvest them. If the land passes to someone else because of the tenant's death, the crops pass to the tenant's heirs. If the crops are annual but did not require labor by the tenant, they are not considered emblements.

Key Takeaways

  • Emblements are annual crops grown by a tenant on another's land that are considered the personal property of the tenant.
  • If the land is sold or faces foreclosure, for example, the tenant is still entitled to finish raising the crops and harvest them.
  • However, if the crops are annual but did not require labor by the tenant, they are not considered emblements.

How Emblements Work

The ownership of crops is generally held by the landowner unless the land has been leased to a tenant. This is the case with emblements. Emblements, crops, are treated as personal property, meaning that they move with the tenant. Thus, crops that were planted by a tenant with the intent of harvesting are considered the personal property of the tenant even though the land belongs to someone else. Emblements provide legal protection to tenant farmers who risk being negatively affected by changes concerning the ownership or financial situation of the property that they farm. For example, a farm may change hands or the property and land may face foreclosure. Emblements also come into play if the land passes to someone else because of the tenant’s death. In this case, the crops pass to the tenant’s heirs.

There are many situations in which the right to emblements would apply. For example, a farmer is renting a plot of land from a neighbor for several years in order to grow corn and soybeans. The lease is on a year-to-year basis and is automatically renewed each July. One May, the neighbor informs the farmer that the lease will end that summer because the neighbor is planning to sell the property. The farmer retains the right to work on the land through fall when the crops are harvested.

Emblements can apply when 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. 

Special Considerations for Emblements

Emblements are also known as fructus industriales, meaning "crops produced by manual labor," as opposed to fructus naturales, or crops that grow naturally. Crops that are not harvested annually, or that do not require labor, are not considered emblements. For example, wild mushrooms that grow on land worked by a tenant farmer would not be considered emblements. Crops that are the annual product of perennial plants, such as apples and other fruits, are considered emblements only until the first harvest after the termination of the grower's tenancy. Additionally, if a grower's tenancy ends due to the tenant's own act, the right to emblements is forfeited.