Owners of manorial and sporting rights have until 12 October 2013 to register those rights at the Land Registry or risk losing them against future buyers of the affected land.
That’s because these rights are being dealt with in the same way as chancel repair liability and under the same legislation, the Land Registration Act 2002, which gave owners of the rights 10 years to register or risk losing them.
What are these rights?
There’s no definition of manorial rights – they are rights an individual or estate may possess by virtue of owning the lordship of a manor, and they couldn’t be created after 1925.
Many of them derive from an ancient form of ownership known as copyhold, which was finally converted to freehold in 1926.
The main ones include rights to mines and minerals; the right to hold fairs and markets; liability to construct, maintain and repair dykes, ditches, canals and other works; and sporting rights.
Sporting rights generally mean hunting, shooting, and fishing.
Manorial rights to mines and minerals, and some sporting rights, generally have the most value.
This Land Registry practice guide has more detail.
It’s easy for estates to lose track of ownership of these rights, which exist over land owned by third parties and often situated well beyond the current boundaries of an estate.
Until now that has not posed a legal problem because the rights are currently classed as “overriding interests”, which means they don’t have to be recorded at the Land Registry to be enforceable.
As of 13 October 2013 however they will lose that status and the rights will only bind a buyer of land if they are registered as a notice on the title.
Anyone buying land after that date, if those rights have not been registered, will buy it free from the rights and therefore would in effect acquire the sporting rights and mineral rights themselves.
If the rights are registered in time, they will permanently affect the land.
If the land affected by the rights is unregistered, they can be protected by registering a caution against first registration.
Manorial and sporting rights won’t disappear automatically at midnight on 12 October 2013.
Land acquired before 13 October 2013 will continue potentially to be bound by those rights, even if they are not registered, until it’s sold.
In many cases, the rights may have little value now, but they could nevertheless have value in the future.
Establishing the existence and extent of the rights can be complex - specialist advice and detailed legal research may be needed – and of course owners and their advisors need to consider whether it’s worth the cost.
Trustees are in a difficult position and need to be mindful of their duties to beneficiaries.
If you own these rights – whether as a lord of the manor, an estate owner, or as a trustee of estates benefitting from those rights – it would be wise to register them at the Land Registry before 12 October 2013 or you (or your beneficiaries if you are a trustee) risk losing them.
We may yet see a rush to register these rights before the 2013 deadline.