Most of us rarely think about what lies beneath our homes – unless we have a cellar.
But over the last few weeks and months many people across England and Wales have been thinking a great deal about it.
That’s because the 12 October deadline for registering certain ‘overriding interests’ has also concentrated minds on the ownership of mines and minerals – or, very broadly, the land below the surface.
It’s often the case that ‘mines and minerals’ are owned by someone other than the owner of the surface of the land and the property that sits on it.
They can own the mines and minerals outright and be able to take them away whether or not the owner of the surface agrees.
How mines and minerals applications affect surface owners
In the run-up to 12 October people who believe they own mines and minerals applied in greater numbers than usual to register their land. We in turn have been sending out notices to the surface owners affected to tell them that someone else claims they own the mines and minerals under their properties.
Our function is to register land and this includes mines and minerals. It’s our role to send out the notices but our independent status means we cannot offer legal advice or provide reassurances about what the notice means to any particular individual.
The notice tells the surface owner we have received an application to register the mines and minerals beneath their property. It explains the entry we will put in their register to show that their property does not include the mines and minerals underneath it.
These notices give them the opportunity to object to the application. There is a time limit in which they need to respond if they wish to object.
Ownership was not affected by the changes in the law
Ownership of mines and minerals differs from other rights or ‘interests’ such as chancel repair liability and manorial rights.
Those interests were in danger of potentially disappearing if they were not protected by registration before 13 October 2013.
However, this is not the case with ownership of mines and minerals.
This can still be registered in its own right if an applicant has enough evidence of their ownership. This still applies whether or not the exclusion of mines and minerals is mentioned in the register of a property sold after 12 October.
For more information see our guidance on historical rights that could affect your property.