Marie Crawley, Chartered Legal Executive in the Thompson Smith and Puxon (TSP) Residential Property team discusses mines and mineral rights and explains how they can affect your property purchase or ownership.

The mines and minerals contained in the land underneath your property are presumed to be included in your ownership. However, mines and minerals may be excepted or excluded in your title deeds.

If this is the case, then you do not own the land underneath your property. Someone, who owned this land previously, has either retained ownership of the land underneath your property or has reserved for themselves the right to access the mines and minerals under your property. They may have done this in order to retain any value in any minerals which may be present under the property or to stop you from mining in order to protect their own infrastructure.

Nowadays, mines and minerals are commonly referred to as manorial rights having previously been classed as overriding Interests. Since 12 October 2013 the Land Registry, under the Land Registration Act 2002, requires that such rights are protected by noting them on the title deeds. The owner of the mines and minerals can apply to the Land Registry to have them registered under a separate title.

If you are purchasing a property and mention is made on the deeds that the mines and minerals are excepted then your solicitor will undertake a search to find out whether these rights have been registered under a separate title. If this is the case, it does not necessarily mean that the owner has an automatic right to access your land to break ground and the rights may just be restricted to work underground. However, your solicitor will be able to advise.

If the owner of the rights does mine below your property and causes damage you would potentially be entitled to compensation. However, these days mining is managed by the local planning authority so may well be restricted, perhaps because the area is already heavily built up. On a practical level the possibility of mining below your property is less of a risk these days but, if you have a concern, then it is possible to put a mines and minerals indemnity insurance policy in place to give you some peace of mind.

Another problem to be aware of with reserved mineral rights is that the owner of these rights could potentially claim trespass if any of your foundations interfere with their minerals. If you are intending to develop or extend your property and this involves you digging through or removing minerals you could potentially find yourself in hot water if the owner of the rights takes action against you. You could end up paying damages or even receive an injunction to stop the works. On this basis, it is a good idea to ask your solicitor to check your title deeds for any such mention before starting any work.

The Thompson Smith and Puxon Residential Property team can help with all types of residential property matters, in particular, your purchase, your sale or your remortgage. They can be contacted on 01206 574431 in Colchester or 01255 221919 in Clacton or by email at movinghome@tsplegal.com.