With thousands of owners affected by rights being reaffirmed over their properties by Lords of the Manor over the last couple of years, the Commons Justice Committee has urged the Law Commission to investigate the law regarding manorial rights.
Following the enforcement of the Land Registration Act in October 2013, unregistered manorial rights could lose their overriding status if they were not protected by registration of a unilateral notice against titles to burdened land. The Act triggered around 90,000 claims to register these rights, many of which included rights to mining and mineral extraction under neighbouring properties. This left many owners shocked to discover that the rights even existed, let alone having been registered against their property.
One such example was the residents of Kirkham, Lancashire, who received alarming notices from the Land Registry.
Hundreds of people across the town were sent letters informing them that John Sergeant, who holds the Lord of the Manor of Kirkham title, was registering the notice to preserve his rights. But the letters left many people frightened, upset and confused, and local councillors were inundated with calls and emails from worried constituents.
Local Councillor Elaine Silverwood said: “I’ve had people in tears thinking they’re going to lose their homes. I feel so sorry for vulnerable elderly residents who got this very intimidating letter. It’s awful.”
As a result of cases such as this, the Commons Justice Committee set up a review into the law concerning manorial rights. Sir Alan Beith, the Committee's chairman, said: “The lack of understanding of such rights, and the way the registration process was carried out and communicated, has led to understandable concerns and anxieties. We have had numerous representations, both from MPs on their constituents’ behalf, and from individual members of the public affected by registrations on their properties [who] all called for either the abolition of these rights or a review of the law.”
In its report, the Committee says that there are considerable problems with the registration process, including the way the Land Registry notifies affected owners, the burden of proof of the validity of claims, which falls disproportionately on the landowner, and the use of unilateral notices to register manorial rights.
As well as suggesting a number of improvements to the registration process, the Committee has advised the Law Commission to carry out a review to assess whether the manorial rights law should be changed or even abolished altogether.
In view of the fact that the date for first registering manorial rights notices passed quite some time ago, a review of the registration process at this time seems more than a little futile. The vast majority of manorial rights holders will already have protected their rights via unilateral notices, so any change to the law is likely to have little or no impact.
That is of course if the Law Commission even chooses to review the law. Currently, it has yet to respond to the request from the Commons Justice Committee. We’ll keep our ears to the ground for any further developments and continue to handle enquiries we receive for cover (see below).
If a notice has been registered by a Lord of the Manor against an existing property's title for mining or mineral rights, we can provide a policy to protect the owners, plus mortgagees and successors in title, against the enforcement and exercising of such rights. The losses covered are:
For existing, established properties, we can usually offer cover providing that a 'clear' coal mining/mineral report has been obtained, and that no-one has attempted to enforce rights over the property.
For further information about our Mining/Mineral Rights indemnity policy, or to obtain a quote, call 01603 617617 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.