Emblements

What is 'Emblements'

Emblements are annual crops cultivated by a tenant that are treated as the tenant's property rather than the landowner's. If a tenant loses possession of the land on which the crops grow, he or she 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.

BREAKING DOWN 'Emblements'

The doctrine of emblements provides legal protection to tenant farmers who risk being negatively affected by the property on which they farm changing hands or facing foreclosure. In these situations, farmers retain the rights to reap the fruits of their labor even if they lose the land on which their crops are grown.

Crops that were planted with intent of harvesting are considered the personal property of the person who planted them. For this reason, emblements are treated legally as the personal property of the farmer despite growing on land that belongs to someone else.

There are many situations in which the right to emblements might come into effect. For example, say a farmer has been 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 this summer because he is planning to sell the property. The farmer retains the right to work on the land through fall, when he can harvest his crops.

Emblements can also become an issue 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. 

Exceptions to the Rule of 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.