It’s a reasonably common occurrence. You’ve checked with the Estate Agent, and the seller, and you’re sure that 22 Cherry Tree Lane is a freehold property, and when you receive the Property Report from your solicitors, it is also confirmed there. The more you read, though, the more confusing the situation becomes. Yes, 22 Cherry Tree Lane (to use a fictional example) is freehold, but the deeds contain a whole host of provisions and clauses and restrictions. Some of these can date back hundreds of years and, oftentimes, prohibit you from doing things that you didn’t have any intention of doing, such as converting your house into a tannery or brick factory. But some deeds will prohibit you from, for example, parking a caravan at the front of the property, or requiring you to seek the permission of the original developer many years after the last builder drove away. And sometimes you can even be asked to repair the Chancel of a local church, irrespective of whether you ever actually attend. Not to mention a number of exceedingly rare and equally ancient obligations such as manorial rights.
So, you may ask, what is going on? You wanted a freehold property, and yet here is a list of covenants that tell you what you can and can’t do to the property, irrespective of wider planning laws and local authority regulations. The reasons for this are twofold, depending upon the right in question:
- Manorial Rights, Chancel Repair Liability. These are ancient rights which a property has inherited over the century. At the moment, some of these rights have not yet been formalised, but as of October next year, Chancel Liabilities will have to be noted on the Register (the modern version of the Title Deeds) so at least this will be clear from the outset. Since the English Legal System has endured for centuries without a significant break, these rights (which would have been lost in countries such as France that have had a revolution) continue to remain and continue to be enforceable
- With regards to more recent covenants, it’s worth bearing in mind that, when selling land, you are entitled to make such restrictions yourself if you desire. Clearly, if you decided to create an obligation to repair a local church, then you would have to expect that the desirability of your property would be severely affected.
This means that the seller of a property, whether from 1846, 1946 or 2006, can stipulate how they want the property to be used. In order to be assured of the correct position (and we haven’t even begun to discuss indemnity insurance or missing deeds) then it’s important to employ a firm that deals with such properties everyday and is an expert on such things. Such a firm like PLS Solicitors.