Solicitors at Raworths in Harrogate have been contacted in recent weeks by clients who have received notices from the Land Registry informing them that the Duchy of Lancaster is applying to register rights to the mines and minerals eg coal, which may exist under their houses.
The applications relate to properties that have been built on land formerly owned by the Duchy of Lancaster which was sold by the Duchy, sometimes many years ago. Homeowners may not even have been aware that their property was built on land formerly owned by the Duchy as they sold large areas to developers, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Mike Sheldon of Raworths said:
It was the norm in such sales to exclude the mines and minerals in the Conveyance so that these remained the property of the Duchy and in some cases the exception of mines and minerals was registered on the title deeds. On other title deeds, reference was made to the property being formerly ‘Copyhold of the Forest of Knaresborough’ and again this means that the mines and mineral rights were excluded from the sale.
Those properties which have such entries on their title should not receive notices as their title deeds already record the fact that mines and minerals are excluded and rest with the Duchy. If there are no such entries on your title, the Duchy may nevertheless still own the mines and minerals under your property as, under Schedule 12 of the Law of Property Act 1922, mines and minerals were retained by the Lord of the Forest of Knaresborough.
This means that these mines and minerals belong to the Duchy.
This right to the mines and minerals is known as an ‘overriding interest’ which means the right exists even though it is not mentioned on the title and even though the land owner does not know about it.
Following changes in the Land Registration Act 2002, the Duchy have to register these interests before midnight on 12th October 2013 otherwise the right may be lost which is why some homeowners are now receiving these letters from the Land Registry.
Jo Coupe of Raworths said:
If the Duchy is successful the registration will simply be a reflection of the existing legal ownership of those rights to mines and minerals rather than the Duchy claiming new rights. The effect is that if, for example, oil or coal is discovered under your property, you will not be able to claim your share of it – it will belong to the Duchy. However, we would urge homeowners not to worry as there have been no changes as such to their rights and the value of their property should not be affected.
The Church of England Diocese has a similar deadline to register rights to require contributions to ‘Chancel Repairs’ (i.e. an obligation to contribute to the maintenance of the parish church) and some Land Registries are now receiving applications to register these rights.