'Manorial rights' should be reviewed, says MPs' committee
The Law Commission should consider axing ancient rights claimed by "lords of the manor", an MPs' report has said.
"Manorial rights", dating back to the Middle Ages, can give holders powers to hunt, shoot and fish or even dig for minerals on other people's land.
The Commons Justice Committee heard that some homeowners had bought property unaware that they were not entitled to the full land rights.
Compensation could be offered if the titles were scrapped, the MPs said.
A 2002 law required holders of manorial rights to register their claims before October 2013. Around 90,000 claims were made in the year before the deadline.
The MPs said people across the country discovered for the first time that their properties were subject to rights owned by a third party - the holder of the lord of the manor title.
- In medieval times a manor was an area of land owned by the person who lived in the manor house
- The lordship of the manor is simply the title by which the lord of the manor is known
- Before the Land Registration Act 2002, it was possible to buy these lordship titles
- Manorial rights were retained by the lord of the manor when the land became freehold
- They can include rights relating to mines and minerals and those to hunt, shoot or fish
Source: Land Registry
"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," said the Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith, who chairs the committee.
"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."
"They all called for either the abolition of these rights or a review of the law."
The MPs heard how some of the powers, particularly mining rights over rural land, could be of "considerable and real value to the rights holders".
In Welwyn Garden City, around 500 households in the Handside area were told Lord Salisbury had registered claims to manorial rights over their properties.
The householders had been reassured there was "no intention for the rights to be exercised", the committee heard.
On Anglesey, a Cheshire businessman, Stephen Hayes, who bought the title of Lord of the Manor of Treffos in 1992, registered claims on around 4,000 properties in 2013.
After protests from residents and "considerable local public pressure", Mr Hayes agreed to drop all his original rights claims, the committee's report said.
Some manorial rights were "impossible to exercise and of no practical significance", the MPs said.
The committee said the Law Commission, the body which scrutinises existing legislation, should assess whether some or all of the rights should be abolished and consider whether compensation could be offered to title holders.