Recent legislation could have a significant impact on landowners and on those who believe they have acquired rights on other people's land such as rights of way and fishing and grazing rights. Rights acquired will have to be registered in a relatively short time period or be lost and the user periods needed to acquire certain rights have varied significantly. Clair Cassidy and Paul McCutcheon start the clock running with the Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009. The Land and Conveyancing Law Reform Act 2009 has provided a long-awaited and much-needed overhaul of many of the more archaic principles governing land law and conveyancing practice in Ireland. One area on which the 2009 Act has had a significant effect is the law relating to easements and profits à prendre. Although these seem like obscure legal terms, most land in Ireland is subject to interests of this nature.
An easement is a right for one landowner to do something - or to prevent a neighbour from doing something - on the neighbour's own land and includes such common matters as rights of way, rights of light and rights of support. A profit à prendre is the right to go on to someone else's land and take natural materials from it and would, for example, include the right to mine, quarry, fish, hunt, graze animals or cut turf.
Easements and profits à prendre can be acquired by agreement between two respective landowners or can be created by statute. They could also be acquired at common law by long use over a period of time (known as prescription) or under a principle known as 'Lost Modern Grant'. The rules for the acquisition of these rights were previously governed by the complicated provisions of the Prescription Act, 1832. The 2009 Act simplifies greatly the procedure for the acquisition of these rights. Both prescriptions at common law and under the doctrine of Lost Modern Grant have been abolished by the 2009 Act. Since 1 December 2009, an easement or profit à prendre can only be obtained by long use if the person claiming the easement or profit obtains a court order and registers this in the Registry of Deeds or Land Registry as appropriate. However, landowners who would have acquired easements or profits à prendre through long use will need to act quickly to protect any interest they have acquired if they do not wish to lose it.
The coming into force of the 2009 Act could also be of significant benefit to landowners who had not acquired their easement or...