Over the last few weeks we have been contacted by a number of clients who have received notices from the Land Registry informing them that the Duchy of Lancaster has applied to register a right to the mines and minerals, e.g. coal, which may exist under their houses including a right to mine and take away such mines and minerals.
The applications relate to properties which have been built on land formerly owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. You may not even be aware that your property was built on land formerly owned by the Duchy as they often sold to developers, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Often, in the Conveyance to the developer, the Duchy retained the ownership of the mines and minerals and a note of that fact was entered on to the title of the land. On other titles, reference is made to the property being formerly “Copyhold of the Forest of Knaresborough” which means amongst other things that the mines and minerals belong to the Duchy. Those properties which have such entries on their title should not receive notices as their titles already record the fact that the mines and minerals belong to 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 is 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 various “overriding interests”, including the right to mines and minerals, must be registered before midnight on 12th October 2013 otherwise the right may be lost. It is for that reason the Duchy is now applying to register its rights to mines and minerals at the Land Registry. 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.
The Church of England Diocese has a similar deadline to register rights to require home owners to contribute towards the repair of the Chancel (usually the Eastern end) of the local parish church and we understand that some Land Registries are now receiving applications to register these rights.