Manorial Rights – are your interests protected?

Manorial interests, rights that were retained by the Lord of the Manor when the land became freehold, are due to lapse on 12 October 2013 if not registered with the Land Registry. ‘Overriding interests’ affecting land in England and Wales are therefore about to lose their automatic protection. If you are an owner of manorial interests (a Lord of the Manor) you have just a few weeks to protect your interests. Are you prepared?

In this briefing, Nick Jenkins, Managing Partner and Wealth Planning specialist at Rooks Rider Solicitors LLP, looks at the implications for owners of manorial interests and explains why it is critical that your interests are protected, as the potential value in doing so could be significant.

What are manorial interests?

Manorial interests are rights that were retained by the Lord of the Manor when the land became freehold. They include, for example, sporting rights (hunting, shooting, fishing), rights to hold fairs and, significantly, rights relating to mines and minerals (addressed in further detail below).

Also known as ‘overriding interests,’ this is the ability to affect land even if the interests or rights are not registered with the Land Registry against that land. But, all this is about to change…

Before the Land Registration Act 2002, it was possible for Manors to be registered with HM Land Registry. Manorial rights, the rights that a Lord of the Manor may exercise over other people’s land, are due to lapse on 12 October 2013 if not registered by then with the Land Registry.

Owners of manorial interests have therefore just a few weeks to protect their interests by:

  1. Submitting unilateral notices to the Land Registry in respect of each registered freehold title within the area of the relevant manor; and
  2. Lodging an application for a caution against first registration for unregistered land within the manor.

Establishing your rights

If you have the benefit of the manorial rights, it is essential that you take steps to ensure that those rights are protected.

As a start, you need to determine what rights have been outlined in any documentation. Owners of registered freehold titles who receive a notice from the Land Registry may object to the registration of the manorial interest affecting their property, but they will only be able to succeed if they have evidence to show that, for example, mineral rights were included in a transfer to their predecessors in title, such as by an Enclosure Award from the early 19th century or earlier, or enfranchisement of the copyhold.

Most Enclosure Awards will have been destroyed or lost many years ago, but some are held in National Archive and some are even held by solicitors in their archive.

There are also other sources, such as the National Archives at Kew, London and the County Record Offices, which can be reviewed in order to ascertain what rights, if any, exist and are documented. Your specialist real estate solicitor should be able to advise you and register the rights with the Land Registry on your behalf. If you do not have the old documents, you may need to enlist the help of an experienced researcher.

Mineral rights – the value of manorial interest

Owning mineral rights does not mean you have the right to access them. If the mineral owner wants to get to and extract the minerals, they will need to do a deal with the surface owner. Some minerals are owned by the Crown, such as gold and silver, oil and gas. If someone wishes to extract gas by fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, they need to do a deal with 1. the Crown, 2. the owner of the surface land, and 3. the owner of the mineral rights (the Lord of the Manor).

The owner of mineral rights can make money from the extraction of gas (that belongs to the Crown) because, in the extraction process, other minerals are disturbed and the mineral owner charges a fee for disturbance under a license to disturb minerals.

Preserving your manorial rights – next steps?

In the coming weeks as the deadline approaches you may receive Land Registry notices in respect of manorial rights affecting your property. In fact, thousands of notices have already been sent to land owners in respect of manorial interests owned by the Church of England.

In order to preserve manorial rights they need to be registered at the Land Registry on or before midnight on the 12 October 2013.

At Rooks Rider Solicitors, we can advise you on how to register manorial rights. For further information or advice, contact Nick Jenkins on Tel: +44(0)20 7689 7161 or Email: njenkins@rooksrider.co.uk

Press enquiries: Contact Georgina Swain on Tel: +44(0)20 3286 8817 or email georgina.swain@bridgecape.com

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