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Amateur Historical Research Is No Replacement for Legal Advice

pathMany amateur historians enjoy pawing over old title deeds but, when it comes to discerning rights in respect of land, there is no replacement for professional advice. In one case, a homeowner carried out extensive research but was barking up the wrong tree when he claimed a right of way over his neighbour’s land.

The man had lodged a caution at the Land Registry, asserting that he had a right of way over a strip of land that his neighbour used to gain access to the rear of his home. On the basis of old documents, he argued that the strip had for more than 170 years been open and uncultivated waste land, available for use by the commoners of the area. He said that a parliamentary deed of enclosure and exchange, dated 1864, confirmed that the strip was ‘a common piece of manorial origin’.

Ruling on the dispute, the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) paid all due deference to the time and effort that the man had put into the case. However, it found that his elaborate arguments were entirely misconceived. His neighbour had good title to the strip and arguments to the contrary were untenable and based on mere speculation.

Even if the results of the man’s research were correct, common rights were not the same as private rights of way and any rights attached to the strip would belong not to him but to the Lord of the Manor. Directing that the caution be removed from the register, the FTT was minded to order the man to pay the £9,741 legal costs of the case. It would, however, hear further argument on that point.