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.
(1) At common law. - This can only be done if the tenant and the lord of the manor agree to enfranchise the land.
The lord conveys the freehold estate to the tenant free from all the services due to the lord, and the tenant pays usually a lump sum to the lord.
It is usual to reserve to the lord the right of escheat: for this cannot do the tenant any harm, being merely the right of the lord to take the land if the tenant dies intestate and without heirs.
The lord cannot grant a greater estate than he has himself. If, therefore, he is merely a tenant for life he cannot enfranchise the fee simple.
(2) Under the Copyhold Act, 1894 (a), enfranchisements can be made under this Act even if the lord has only a life estate or other estate less than the fee simple.
(a) Voluntary enfranchisement. - The tenant and the lord may agree to enfranchise the land for an amount to be fixed by agreement.
The land is conveyed in the same way as at common law, with the consent of the Board of Agriculture.
(a) 57 & 58 Vict. c. 46.
(b) Compulsory enfranchisement. - Either the tenant or the lord can compel the other to enfranchise the land.
(i.) If the tenant compels enfranchisement he must pay a lump sum of money to the lord.
(ii.) If the lord compels enfranchisement, the tenant may pay a lump sum or, if he prefers to do so, an annual rent charge at the rate of four per cent, of the lump sum.
In either case, if the amount payable is more than one year's improved value of the land, the tenant has the option of paying the rent-charge (b).
In either case the amount is fixed by the parties or by the Board of Agriculture or by a valuer appointed by the parties.
If the lord refuses to convey, the enfranchisement may be effected by an award of enfranchisement granted and confirmed by the Board of Agriculture (c).
Effect of enfranchisement. - After enfranchisement the land which was formerly copyhold becomes freehold (d), and the freehold thus created is held by the tenant (who was the copyholder) for the same estate and subject to the same limitations and trusts as formerly affected the copyhold (e).
Thus, if copyholds were settled on A for life, with remainder to his sons in tail, and A causes the land to be enfranchised, the freehold will immediately vest in A for life with remainder to his sons in tail.
Peculiarities of enfranchisements under these Acts.
(1) They are independent of the title of the lord(f).
That is to say, if the person who acts as lord of the manor is not really entitled to the freehold, the enfranchisement remains
(b) Copyhold Act, 1894, s. 8. (c) S. 10.
(d) S. 21 (1). (e) S. 21 (2). (f) S. 21, 1 (d).
valid, and the only right of the true lord of the manor is to claim the money which was paid or payable by the tenant.
A person who purchases enfranchised freeholds is not therefore concerned to inquire as to the title of the lord of the manor, and he is not entitled to inquire into it (g).
(2) They do not affect the lord's right to mines (h).
I.e. the lord remains tenant in fee simple of the minerals under the land, unless there is an express provision to the contrary.
(3) They do not affect the tenant's right of common (i).
The tenant still retains any rights of common which he possessed before enfranchisement over the wastes of the manor.
(4) They do not destroy the lord's right of escheat.
On the death of the tenant without heirs and intestate, the land goes to the lord of the manor instead of to the Crown.