In Rem Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of In Rem, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is In Rem?

Unlike in personam (which is against a person and its property) in rem is a technical term meaning ” against a thing or property”. Any lawsuit or judgement made against the property or thing is an action “in rem”. In this case, the location of the property is important as the court can hold the trial only in the jurisdiction under which the land falls. Unlike in personam, the judgement can be against the land and not its owner.

History and Meaning of In Rem

In rem is a legal term that comes from Latin, meaning "against a thing" or "against the thing itself". In the context of law, in rem refers to a legal action that is taken against a specific piece of property rather than against a person. The purpose of an in rem action is to establish the rights of ownership or other legal interests in that particular property.

In rem actions are based on the principle that ownership and other legal interests in property are public knowledge for anyone to know, and that the property itself is subject to the jurisdiction of the court in which the action is brought. In this context, the court’s judgment is binding, affecting not only the parties involved, but also anyone with an interest in the property.

Examples of In Rem

  1. A property owner fails to pay property taxes, and the government files an in rem action to seize the property to compensate the unpaid taxes.

  2. A bank forecloses on a property due to default on a mortgage and files an in rem action to take possession of the property.

  3. A county government files an in rem action to condemn a poorly maintained building that poses a public safety threat.

Legal Terms Similar to In Rem

  1. In Personam: In contrast to in rem, in personam is a legal term that refers to a legal action taken against a person.

  2. Quasi In Rem: A legal action in which the object of the dispute is a person’s interest in a property.

  3. Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear and decide legal cases.