An MP has called for an urgent review after thousands of homeowners were shocked to discover they had a lord of the manor – with the right to hunt on their property.
More than 90,000 properties, most of them ordinary residential homes, may be subject to archaic legal provisions dating back to before the Norman conquest , an inquiry led by North East MP Sir Alan Beith has warned.
It means the lord of the manor has the right to mine minerals beneath the property, hold fairs and markets on the land or use it for hunting, shooting or fishing.
Homeowners were astounded to learn that they were affected and feared property values could be hit, even though such rights are rarely exercised.
Sir Alan, Liberal Democrat MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed, is chair of the Commons Justice Committee which has held an inquiry into the problem.
In new report, the Committee called an independent review by the Law Commission into whether the rights should be scrapped.
The concept of a lord of the manor may sound old-fashioned but it still exists. Lordships can be bought and sold, and some are held by charitable and educational institutions.
Properties affected are not necessarily in rural areas, or anywhere near a manor house or similar building. Thousands of homes in built up, urban areas have a lord of the manor.
Most affected homeowners appear to have been unaware of the issue, until an attempt to update the law had unintended consequences.
Changes made through the Land Registration Act 2002 forced lords of the manor to register their claims by October 2013 – or lose them.
But it meant homeowners received letters from the Land Registry informing them that a claim affecting their property had been filed.
Around 90,000 claims were registered in the year preceding the deadline, with many people discovering for the first time that their properties may be subject to rights owned by a third party.
A claim may have no practical impact, as it is thought unlikely that a court would back a lord who tried to exercise their rights against the wishes of the property’s owner.
But it appears on the charges register held by the Land Registry, which can be consulted when a property is being sold to check whether there it is affected by statutory restrictions. This has led to fears it could cause problems for people trying to sell their home.
Sir Alan said:
“House owners were astonished to find manorial rights registered on their properties, and worried that this would affect them when selling the house or getting a mortgage. 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.”
“The Committee heard evidence about considerable problems with the registration process, and in particular the Land Registry’s notifications to 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.
“However, there was little evidence of problems actually being caused by the exercise of manorial rights in practice in the present day.”
Simply abolishing the system could be difficult, he said. In some cases, manorial rights could have a genuine value, such as when there was a real prospect of mining or extracting minerals from the land.
But Sir Alan said: “We nevertheless consider that the situation where a claim can be made over areas of dense residential properties – where rights are unlikely or impossible to be exercised – is anomalous.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Jan 2015