Protecting an Estate's Mineral Rights

The tenure of land has taken several forms over the centuries and has been the subject of many statutes. Manorial land is land that was originally part of the landholdings of the lordship of the manor and which has not been separately transferred from the lordship title. Manorial rights are rights which an Estate may possess by virtue of owning the lordship of a manor.  Examples of such rights include sporting rights, mineral rights and the lord's right to hold fairs and markets. No new rights could be created after 1925. In practice, mineral rights are also often owned by virtue of a reservation on the sale of land, particularly where an Estate has been sold off.

 

Under the Land Registration Act 2002 there was no need for a landowner to register these rights in order to bind the surface owner. They would have taken effect as an ‘overriding interest'.  However, under the Land Registration Act 2002, after 12 October 2013 these rights will lose their overriding status and must be registered in order to be binding on the surface owner. If they are not registered, they will be lost forever when ownership of the surface land changes. It is therefore vitally important that where these interests exist, they are protected.

 

To establish the existence of manorial rights the estate will first need to establish ownership of the manor. The next stage will involve the estate in establishing the extent of the manorial land over which the rights subsist. As manorial land can be extensive, or form a collection of small pieces of land over a large area, this may prove to be a difficult task and professional help may be required. Consequently, consideration will need to be given to the cost of the exercise as weighed against the value of the mineral rights being protected.

 

Each case is decided on its own merits and therefore it is important to obtain the deeds and prove provenance.  If the land is already registered, the manorial interests can be protected by a notice on the register. Where the land is unregistered, a caution can be placed against first registration which will ensure that the person or body seeking first registration is alerted to the fact that there is someone claiming a manorial interest.  In any event, where an Estate is currently unregistered, it would be prudent to undertake a first registration exercise. This would place the Estate in a much stronger negotiating position should someone try to register an unsubstantiated caution or notice against the land. 

 

It should be noted that when protecting a manorial interest, the person lodging the caution or notice could be liable to pay compensation if the caution or notice is found to be inaccurate and the surface owner suffers a loss. For example, if a development opportunity is lost as a result.

 

Whilst landowners are free to choose to ignore this very complex issue, where Estates are held on trust, there is a duty on the Trustees to preserve trust assets and so they are under an obligation to ensure that these rights are protected. Failure to do so could result in the Trustees being personally liable for any loss suffered by a disgruntled beneficiary.