This section is from the book "Real Property, An Introductory Explanation Of The Law Relating To Land", by Alfred F Topham. Also available from Amazon: The New Law Of Property.
I. Fee Simple. - A fee simple estate in copyholds can be transferred by the tenant during his life, or by will, and if he dies intestate it descends to his customary heir.
(a) This is now frequently done "out of court."
(b) Now usually a pencil or a ruler.
In copyholds all the rules depend on the custom of the particular manor. The customs in different manors vary considerably, and it is therefore always necessary in dealing with copyholds to ascertain if there is any special custom.
If there is no special custom the same rules of descent apply to copyholds as to freeholds.
Services due from a copyhold tenant in fee simple vary with each manor, but usually include -
1. Fines. - A fine is a sum of money payable to the lord on the admittance of every new tenant. Fines are either -
(a) Fixed by the custom, or
Arbitrary fines do not depend entirely upon the will of the lord, but are limited to two years' improved value of the land.
The meaning of the phrase " improved value " is shown by the following case: -
Halton v. Hassel, (1736) 2 Strange 1012.
Hassel's predecessor was admitted tenant of land at a rent of £16 a year. By the custom of the manor the fine was 1 1/2 times the value of the land. He then executed improvements on the land which increased its value to £50 a year. The lord of the manor claimed a fine of £75. Hassel pleaded that he was not liable for more than £21 (being 1 1/2 times the original rent).
Held, the fine must be calculated according to the improved value, and he must pay £75.
2. Reliefs, or sums payable to the lord on the death of a tenant.
3. Rent is frequently payable.
4. Suit of Court. - The tenants are still bound in theory to attend the lord's court.
5. Escheat. - If a tenant dies without heirs and intestate, the land escheats to the lord of the manor.
6. Minerals usually belong to the lord.
7. Timber usually belongs to the lord; but he cannot enter on the land to work the mines or cut the timber without the permission of the tenant or a special custom.
The following case illustrates the rights of the lord and tenant respectively.
Eardley v. Granville, (1876) 3 Oh. D. 826.
E was a copyhold tenant. The Crown was the lord of the manor. The Crown leased the mines to Earl G., who now claimed the right to use underground passages which had been made in the course of working out the coal, as a means of access to another mine.
Held, (1) The minerals are vested in the lord of the manor.
(2) There was a special custom in this manor enabling the lord or his lessees to enter on the land to take the minerals.
But, (3) when the minerals have been removed, the space which the minerals occupied belongs to the tenant of the copyhold.
Therefore Earl G. had no right to use the passage.
8. Heriots. - The lord has a right on the death of a tenant to take the best beast, or sometimes the best chattel.
This is supposed to be due to the fact that in early times the lord provided the tenant with a horse and armour, and claimed them back on his death.
The right is still exercised at the present day.
Copestake v. Hoper,  1 Ch. 366.
C was the lord of the manor; H held an ancient freehold of the manor " by fealty, suit of court, a quit rent of £1 0s. 10d. per annum, a relief of one year's rent and a heriot of his best beast on his death."
H died, having mortgaged the land. The lord seized a bay gelding as his heriot.
Held, H was "seised" at his death in spite of the mortgage, and the heriot was payable.
A fee simple tenant of copyholds may not commit waste without the consent of the lord of the manor. If he commits waste, or fails to perform the services, he may forfeit his estate to the lord.
II. Estates Tail. - There are no estates tail in copyholds unless there is a special custom in the manor to allow entails.
The Statute de Donis only applied to freeholds, and not to copyholds: hence -
The effect of a grant of Copyholds "to A and the heirs of his body " is -
(1) If there is no special custom to entail, A takes a fee simple conditional, as he would have taken in freeholds before De Donis.
I.e. on the birth of issue A can sell the whole fee simple, but if he has no issue, he cannot bar the entail.
(2) If there is a custom to entail, A takes an estate tail.
An estate tail in copyholds can now be barred by a simple deed of surrender similar to a disen-tailing deed of freehold, but it need not be enrolled in the Central Office.
This was enacted by the Fines and Recoveries Act, 1833. Enrolment is unnecessary because all dealings with copyhold land are enrolled in the lord's court.
Before 1833 entails could be barred by -
(i.) Forfeiture to the lord, and a re-grant by him; this destroyed the estate tail, which was forfeited, and the lord then granted a new estate in fee simple.
(ii.) Customary recovery. This was similar to a recovery of freeholds.
III. Estates for life can be created in copyholds and are now subject to much the same rules as in freeholds; although in early times there were some differences.
E.g. estates pur autre vie never vested in the "general occupant," for the lord would take the land if there was no other tenant.
IV. Leases may be granted with the consent of the lord of the manor.