The plight of Manorial Rights?

The term “manorial rights” may sound archaic. Manorial rights are ancient rights enjoyed by the lord of the manor over former “copyhold land”, terms not overly familiar in 21st century conveyancing.

Manorial rights, such as sporting rights and rights to mines and minerals, are potentially valuable and continue to exist. They are known as “overriding interests”, which means that a landowner’s property may be subject to them even if they are not mentioned on their title documents. However, on 13 October 2013 this is set to change.

Origin of Manorial Rights

Manorial rights are rights retained by former lords of the manor over former “copyhold” land, a tenure of land once belonging to the manor. Copyhold land was gradually converted into freehold land as a result of various acts of Parliament passed during the 19th and 20th centuries, with the eventual extinguishment of all copyhold tenure on 1 January 1926 under the Law of Property Act 1922.

Current Position

As manorial rights are overriding interests, a landowner is subject to them even if they are not aware of them and even if their registered title document makes no reference to them. This may be because the rights may not have been exercised in a long period of time. You may therefore unexpectedly discover that your land is subject to manorial rights or a search of your title deeds may reveal that you have the benefit of such rights.

Position on or after 13 October 2013

If the rights are not registered prior to 13 October 2013, a purchaser of that land for valuable consideration will take free from the rights; the “overriding interests” will cease to exist at that point. The rights will not automatically cease to exist on 13 October 2013, but a risk that they may at some unknown point be lost will become a real possibility.

Act now to protect your rights

If you think that you may enjoy the benefit of manorial rights, you must firstly establish the ownership of the manor. Secondly, the extent of the manor over which the rights extend must be determined. You will then need to lodge an application with the Land Registry. There is currently no fee for doing so prior to 13 October 2013, but the position thereafter is unclear. No evidence is required in support of the application at the time it is lodged, but the Land Registry can request the evidence at any time.

An application must not be lodged without reasonable cause as the applicant owes a duty to anyone who suffers damage. If you think you may benefit from manorial rights, it is important to seek legal advice before taking any steps to notify the Land Registry. If you think that your land is subject to an application to register such rights then again it is important to seek legal advice.

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Every piece of content we create is correct on the date it’s published but please don’t rely on it as legal advice. If you’d like to speak to us about your own legal requirements, please contact one of our expert lawyers.

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