A looming deadline to register rights of way with the Property Registration Authority (PRA) will be removed following pressure from the Law Society and the Bar Council.
Ministers yesterday agreed to introduce a “short amending bill” to amend the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 and repeal changes concerning easements, such as rights of way, and profits à prendre, such as fishing or shooting rights.
Prior to the introduction of the 2009 Act, prescriptive rights of way were usually verified by simple statutory declarations of long use. The 2009 Act introduced a new requirement for a prescriptive right to be verified by a court order and registered with the PRA.
An amendment to the law, made in 2011, provided that, if the prescriptive right was not contested by the owner of the land affected by it, the claimant could apply directly to the PRA to validate and register their right based on long use.
The deadline for applications under the old rules made to court, or directly to the PRA, was also extended to 30 November 2021. After that deadline, prescriptive rights could still be validated and registered, but only under new rules taking effect on 1 December.
Mrs Humphreys said: “I know that the position that was due to apply after 30 November has been a cause of great concern for many. I have listened carefully to the concerns raised with me by stakeholders, including the Law Society and the Bar Council.
“I am satisfied that, if not addressed, this deadline was likely to lead to a large volume of unnecessary court cases to protect rights which have been enjoyed for generations, and to cause stress between neighbours, unnecessary legal costs, and added court backlogs.”
The law applicable to prescriptive easements and profits “will largely be reverted” to the common law that applied before the 2009 Act, the Department of Justice has said.
Mrs Humphreys added: “In what I am sure will be a welcome development for purchasers, this is also expected to greatly reduce current conveyancing delays and blockages.”
The justice minister said she will seek a waiver from pre-legislative scrutiny and early signature of the bill by the president in order to meet the deadline.
Mrs Humphreys also committed to more comprehensive reform in the area, promising a “time-bound review that will identify the best long-term, sustainable provisions for the law in this area”.
Paddy Sweetman, convener of the Law Society’s easements task force, told Irish Legal News: “The Law Society raised the rights of way registration deadline as an issue of major concern among solicitors with the government earlier this year. We engaged extensively with them on this issue and we are pleased to see that our concerns have been heard.
“The 2009 Act has already been causing difficulties for people when buying and selling property, and for people taking out mortgages. The looming deadline of 30 November 2021 would have made the situation considerably worse.
“We thank the minister and the government for their review of this Act and are grateful that the minister has recognised the need for a ‘wholesale reform’ in this area. We look forward to receiving further clarity on the issue and the amendments being brought forward.”