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Manorial Rights

Landowners must take action to protect historical property rights, says Matthew Knight, Solicitor.

The Negotiator

historical property imageOwners of properties with Manorial Rights attached face the prospect of losing those rights if they fail to register them before 13th October 2013.

Owners could face losing their valuable sporting or mineral rights’.

Matthew Knight, Solicitor image

Matthew Knight, Solicitor

The term Manorial Rights, or Manorial Incidents as they are also known, arise out of old Lordships of the Manor and can “override” the rights of other landowners. These rights can have significant present or future value to the holder. Traditionally, manorial rights were held by the owners of estates over their lands and could include the right to hold a title, access rights, sporting or shooting rights and mineral rights.

In addition, there could be the right to hold a fair or market, and rights over common land or grass verges, as well as obligations about upkeep and maintenance. As estates were broken up, and the land sold off in freehold parcels, very often these manorial rights remained with the original estate.

The Land Registration Act of 2002 states that from midnight on 12th October 2013, these rights will cease to be an “overriding interest”, and must be registered with the Land Registry if they are to continue to bind the land. This is a separate issue to Lordships of the Manor which will still be capable of registration.

Failure to register by this deadline will mean the manorial rights will no longer apply, and the holder could face losing valuable sporting or mineral rights. Trustees of landed trusts should be particularly aware of fulfilling their duties in this regard and applying for registration before the deadline date.

Registration can be a complex process. To register these rights landowners will need to prove that they own them. Often manorial rights are not contained in the Land Registry register of titles or on unregistered freehold deeds, and research must take place to establish the existence and extent of these manorial interests prior to registration.

When buying land you may normally expect the seller to pass on information they have about manorial rights, but they may not themselves be aware of the existence of these. After October 2013, all rights will need to be mentioned in the title register and if not registered the buyer will take the land free of them.

Because of the complexities that sometimes arise in the registration of manorial rights, it is advisable for anyone holding them, or who suspects they do, to take action well ahead of the deadline date
to protect them. In addition, if registration takes place before the deadline then no Land Registry fee is payable.

First registration of unregistered land is another issue that landowners need to be aware of, and one that the Boundary Commission is pushing for on a voluntary basis. Although first registration will not protect you from every issue of access or boundary dispute, it is an essential step to take. There are reduced rates of Land Registry fee payable for voluntary first registrations of title.

First registration requires submission of accurate plans and evidence of the unregistered title. It is not unusual for there to be cases where the unregistered deeds are incomplete or have been lost or destroyed. This is not a bar to registration and should not put landowners off.

New and recent boundaries, such as fences, and even hedges can often be inaccurate, and in some cases building work may stray over a boundary which is not clearly marked. Using Ordnance Survey is not a guarantee of accuracy as features are often unclear, and do not always delineate legal boundaries.

These days the Land Registry expects far more stringent submission criteria when it comes to new plans. Boundaries should be pegged out as soon as possible after taking possession using a global positioning system (GPS). Existing boundaries should be checked every few years to ensure there are no encroachments.

Boundary disputes can be expensive and inhibit the sale of property so it is advisable to clarify boundaries as soon as possible where necessary. In addition, any landowner who is aware of or suspects they may have manorial rights will need to take action to register them by the deadline date, or risk losing them altogether.

Matthew Knight is Senior Partner at Knights Solicitors.

April 17, 2012

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