Manorial Rights

Posted on 19th January 2012 in Legal Updates
John Waldron

Could the Lord of the Manor or the church have rights over your land?

It may seem strange but there are circumstances in which the Lord of the Manor or the Church could have rights that affect your land.  If you have recently sold a property you may have been asked to provide information concerning “Overriding Interests” and wondered what it was all about. These interests are important because although the details of properties shown in the registers at the Land Registry set out of most of the rights and interests that affect or benefit your property there are certain rights that are not shown on the title.

These rights and interests not only affect registered land, where the entries in the register maintained by the Land Registry have now replaced the title deeds as proof of ownership, but they also affect unregistered properties which still rely on traditional title deeds to establish ownership.  This article is therefore relevant whether or not the title to your property is registered at the Land Registry.

As a result of reforms brought in by the Land Registration Act 2002, important changes will be taking place in 2013 which affect Overriding Interests.  The aim of these changes is to simplify the system and make the entries in the registers kept by the Land Registry more comprehensive by reducing the number of Overriding Interests and replacing as many of them as possible with specific entries in the register. This is in keeping with the Land Registry’s overall objective of making the register as complete a record of the title as possible.

Two of the Overriding Interests that will be affected by these changes are those relating to Manorial Rights and Chancel Repair Liability.  You may be surprised to read that in this day and age the Lord of the Manor may still be able to claim rights over your land of which you were not aware or that you could be required to contribute towards the cost of repairing the local church.

Manorial rights arise because of the way in which the law relating to freehold land has developed in this country.  Land which was originally owned by the Lord of the Manor and which was sold off to tenants will often have been sold subject tothe Manor retaining rights to such things as the working mines or minerals in the land, sporting rights to hunt shoot or fish over the land or even the right to hold markets or fairs on the land.

Chancel repair liability is the liability of the owner of land to pay for the repair of the chancel of a parish church. In England, the parochial church council, and, in Wales, the Representative Body of the Church in Wales, has the right to collect the money.  A landmark case affecting a local Warwickshire property in Aston Cantlow hit the headlines a few years ago and resulted in these rights being given much closer scrutiny by lawyers than had hitherto been the case.

The fact that Manorial Rights or Chancel Repair contributions have not been enforced in recent times does not mean that they do not exist.  However the changes brought in by the 2002 Act required that those claiming these rights should register them at the Land Registry and gave the claimants ten years in which to register them.  That ten year period will expire on 12 October 2013 after which any purchaser buying the land affected will take it free from those rights. We are aware that a number of landed estates are actively researching records to see if they are in a position to register Manorial Rights in order to beat the deadline so if you own land that was formerly part of a local estate you should be on your guard against any such applications affecting your property.

How will you know if an application is being made?  Well you will receive a notice from the Land Registry advising you that an application has been made affecting your property and giving you an opportunity to object.  If you receive any such notice you should take advice immediately.  Another word of caution here is to make sure that your address as recorded at the Land Registry is correct.  This will usually be the address of the property but if this is no longer correct e.g. because you have let the property and it is now occupied by a tenant the Land Registry will send the notice to the wrong address which may result in you not being aware of the application and losing your right to challenge it.

If in doubt you should check the position and we will be pleased to help in this respect. Land Registry rules permit up to four separate addresses to be recorded in the registers of a property.

For more information please contact your usual Lodders contact or John Waldron.

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