Ancient 'Rentcharges' may still affect Manchester properties, claim experts

Purchasers of homes in and around the city can be surprised when their Conveyancing Solicitor in Manchester informs them that their property is technically still subject to a yearly payment which originated back in the nineteenth century or even earlier.

These charges are a legal peculiarity almost unique to the Manchester area; the only other part of the country where they are sometimes encountered is North Somerset, of all places.

How do 'rentcharges' work?

When landowners were selling land for development during the industrial revolution, they wanted to retain some control on future development and also to reap some benefit from the increased value of the land once construction was completed.

Their Lawyer inserted provisions into sale deeds which all subsequent owners would have to comply with, including annual charges known as rentcharges, which have to be paid in perpetuity by whomever owns the land.

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These charges were usually imposed on large areas (probably what were originally farm fields) which have since become subdivided among many owners. Conveyancers in Manchester would apportion the rentcharge between individual sub-purchasers, so that each owner  is now only liable to  contribute a small share of the original amount. However, any owner is legally liable to pay the whole amount unless the rentcharge owner has agreed to the apportionment.  

Do they still have to be paid?

Since these charges are payable in perpetuity, they may still be collected.

Lawyers in Manchester acting for buyers will make enquiries from sellers' Solicitor, but in most cases nothing has been paid for many years. The amounts originally charged cannot be increased, so what was a considerable sum in the 19th Century is simply not worth the expense of collecting today.  

However, the right to collect payment does not disappear because of non-payment, and it has been known for investors to acquire the right to receive rentcharges and then try and recover arrears from owners.

Should this happen to you, you must contact the Manchester Solicitor who acted on your purchase, who will be able to advise on your legal liability.