By Sue Lister, Senior Associate in Commercial Property & Development. First published in South East Farmer in September 2012.
Time is running out to protect manorial rights which may still exist over land.
Dating from times when land or an estate was owned by the lordship of the manor, manorial rights might include sporting rights or mineral rights, either of which could offer valuable commercial opportunities today.
Such rights might arise if a tenant of a manor was granted the right to occupy land under ‘copyhold’ of the lord of the manor, or when tenants were awarded land under the 18th and 19th century Inclosure Acts, whereby the lord could reserve manorial rights. After 1926 copyholds were converted into freeholds, possibly subject to these manorial rights. Estates that have been divided up and sold off as separate farms over the years may still be subject to these rights, and because manorial rights were treated as ‘overriding interests’ that bound a land owner without having to be registered, they may not be immediately obvious.
The Land Registration Act 2002 set a time limit of 10 years expiring on 13 October 2013 to register manorial rights in order to continue to bind any purchaser of land affected. If the rights are not registered by then, they will still affect the land but only until it is transferred into new ownership. So anyone who has a claim to manorial rights will run the risk of losing them after 13 October 2013 if not registered. There is no registration fee if completed by 13 October 2013.
If the land is registered, the rights can be protected by a notice on the registered title, and the land owner will be notified by the Land Registry. If the land is unregistered, the rights can be protected by a caution against first registration, so that the land owner will be notified when the land is subsequently registered.
Although there is over a year to go before the deadline, claimants should not delay. The Land Registry will need to see documentary evidence establishing a claim to the rights, which could take time to research. However, for those holding the benefit of manorial rights, it could be well worth the time and costs involved.
A word of caution - landowners who have assumed that they have sporting rights in hand could discover that someone else has the right to shoot, hunt or fish on their land, or the right to mine the minerals beneath the surface. A seller has a duty to disclose such information to a buyer, even if it might affect the land’s value. It could be a poisoned chalice!