The term ‘usufruct’ deals with a situation in which someone who is not the owner of a property is given the right to use and enjoy the property as the owner would, insofar as the usufructuary does not alter or misuse the property. At the end of the period, the property must be returned to the owner in a similar condition as the beginning of the usufruct.
A usufruct can be granted either by an order of the court or by a will. In terms of a will, the usufructuary has life interest in the property. For example, a grandmother may leave her property to her grandchildren and give life enjoyment to her son or daughter. If one decides to use a usufruct in one’s will, it is important to seek legal advice to understand all the legal and financial implications of this decision.
A usufruct can have certain conditions attached to its use (and habitation), and it can start on a particular day or immediately. Further, it can be established in relation to movable or immovable property.
There are three kinds of ‘fruits’ defined in the Civil Code (in relation to a usufruct): natural fruits which are of the soil, as well as animals; industrial fruits which are cultivated or worked from the soil; and civil fruits which include rent of houses, arrears of rent, and interest of sums due. A working knowledge of these ‘fruits’ is useful in understanding the rights of the usufructuary.
When the usufruct stops, whatever is in the ground at the time belongs to the owner, and the usufructuary is not in a position to seek restitution. Similarly, anything in the ground at the beginning of the usufruct belongs to the usufructuary. The exception is any treasure found on the property during the course of the usufruct which belongs to the proprietor.
The usufructuary cannot cut down trees for his or her personal use except for the purpose of fuel. If the trees fall by accident, by fire or a natural disaster, then the usufructuary may use the fallen trees as he or she wishes. All rights of servitude and rights of passage are allowed, however, any mines or quarries on the property are not for the usufructuary’s use unless it is for the repair and maintenance of the estate. In terms of life rent, this can be retained by the owner. The use of furniture, linen and other movables should be restored to their original use at the end of the usufruct.
The owner cannot claim any compensation for any improvements made to the property during the usufruct. The usufructuary will be held liable for lesser repairs to the property and the proprietor would be liable for greater repairs. Greater repairs include ‘main walls and vaults, the restoration of beams and the entire roofs and also the entire reparation of dams, prop-walls and fences’. 
Neither the proprietor nor the usufructuary is obligated to rebuild what has fallen into decay or what has been destroyed by an unforeseen event. The usufructuary is liable for taxes and any rates over the property while in the usufruct’s care. The usufructuary is not liable to pay any inherited debts. If required to make any payments in order to enjoy the property, the usufruct has a claim against the debtor and proprietor of land to recover any payments made.
According to the Civil Code of Saint Lucia, Chapter 4.01, 2006 Revised Edition, Book third, Chapter first, clause 413:
‘The usufructuary takes the things in the condition in which they are; but he can only enter into the enjoyment of them after having caused an inventory of the movable property and a statement of the immovables subject to his right to be drawn up, in the presence of or after due notice given to the proprietor, unless he is dispensed from doing so by the act constituting the usufruct.’

            The usufructuary’s obligations focus on security of the property. If the usufruct is over buildings and land, then an inventory must be agreed between the proprietor and the usufructuary at the commencement of the usufruct.
            The usufructuary should guarantee that he or she will enjoy the property as a ‘prudent administrator’. The vendor or donor is not obligated to give such an undertaking. If the usufructuary is unable to give such security then the immovables will be ‘leased, farmed or sequestered’. Further, the proprietor can require that all movables be sold prior to the commencement of the usufruct (depending on the nature of it).
            A usufruct can be terminated in one of the following ways: when the usufructuary dies; the time granted for the usufruct has expired; there has been some confusion in terms of when the usufruct should expire; prescription by a third party; the loss or destruction of the land or property on which the usufruct was created.