Define: Lost Modern Grant

Lost Modern Grant
Lost Modern Grant
Quick Summary of Lost Modern Grant

A “Lost Modern Grant” refers to a legal concept in property law where the evidence of a landowner’s title deed is lost, destroyed, or cannot be located. In some jurisdictions, a Lost Modern Grant may be reconstructed or replaced through legal proceedings, allowing the landowner to establish clear legal ownership of the property. This process typically involves presenting evidence to the court demonstrating the landowner’s rightful claim to the property and proving that the original grant existed but has been lost or destroyed. Once the court is satisfied with the evidence, it may issue a new grant or order confirming the landowner’s title to the property. This helps ensure that landowners can maintain legal ownership of their property even in cases where the original title deed is unavailable.

What is the dictionary definition of Lost Modern Grant?
Dictionary Definition of Lost Modern Grant

The ‘fiction of the lost modern grant’ is a judicial device created to recognise that an easement might arise by prescription even if it could not satisfy the requirements for common law prescription. According to common law, it is at least possible that the easement was in use in 1189. If it turns out, for example, that the land subject to a purported easement of access was underwater at some point in the 13th century, the claim will be defeated.

To acquire an easement by prescription under the fiction of the lost modern grant, the easement must have been in continuous use for at least twenty years. It has to have been possible that the easement could have been the subject of an express grant (which is deemed to have been lost, hence the name). The claim can be defeated by showing that the grant could not have been made. Of course, all the other requirements for an easement must be present as well.

Full Definition Of Lost Modern Grant

The concept of a “Lost Modern Grant” arises within the context of property law, specifically in relation to the doctrine of prescription. This legal principle pertains to the acquisition of rights, such as easements, over land due to long-term use. The term ‘Lost Modern Grant’ refers to a legal fiction employed by courts to justify the prescriptive acquisition of such rights.

Historical Background

The doctrine of prescription has its roots in ancient Roman law, where continuous and uninterrupted use of land could lead to legal recognition of certain rights. In the English common law system, prescription has evolved significantly, particularly through the introduction of statutes like the Prescription Act 1832.

Definition and Concept

A “Lost Modern Grant” is a legal fiction which posits that if a person has been using a right over another’s land (e.g., a right of way) continuously, openly, and without interruption for a significant period (usually 20 years), it can be presumed that such a right was originally granted by deed but the deed has since been lost.

Requirements for Establishing a Lost Modern Grant

To establish a right via Lost Modern Grant, several conditions must be met:

  • Continuous and Uninterrupted Use: The use must be continuous and uninterrupted for the prescriptive period, typically 20 years.
  • Open and Notorious Use: The use must be open and apparent, meaning it should be visible and obvious to anyone.
  • Without Permission: The use must be without the explicit permission of the landowner, thereby differentiating it from a license.
  • As of Right: The use must be as of right, meaning it must not be in secrecy, by force, or with permission.

Legal Framework and Key Cases

The legal framework surrounding Lost Modern Grant is primarily rooted in case law, with several key cases shaping its current understanding.

  • Dalton v Angus (1881): This case is a cornerstone in the development of the Lost Modern Grant doctrine. It established that long-term use could justify the presumption of a grant that has been lost.
  • Tehidy Minerals Ltd v Norman (1971): This case reaffirmed the principles of Lost Modern Grant, emphasizing that continuous use over a long period could establish a right, presuming the existence of a grant.
  • Mills v Silver (1991): The Court of Appeal reiterated that if a claimant could demonstrate long-term use that was open, uninterrupted, and without the permission of the landowner, a prescriptive right could be established.

Comparison with Other Doctrines

The Lost Modern Grant doctrine is often compared with other legal doctrines related to the acquisition of rights over land, such as:

  • Adverse Possession: Unlike Lost Modern Grant, which deals with rights over land, adverse possession pertains to the acquisition of title to land itself through long-term, uninterrupted possession.
  • Implied Easements: These arise when a right is deemed necessary for the reasonable use of a property and may be implied by the courts without a formal grant.

Statutory Framework: Prescription Act 1832

The Prescription Act 1832 codified some aspects of the law of prescription but did not abolish the common law doctrine of Lost Modern Grant. The Act provides for the acquisition of rights over land after long-term use, but the courts continue to apply the principles of Lost Modern Grant in many cases, especially where the statutory requirements are not strictly met.

Criticisms and Challenges

The doctrine of Lost Modern Grant has faced criticisms and challenges, including:

  1. Legal Fiction: Critics argue that the concept of a ‘lost’ grant is a legal fiction that does not reflect the reality of how property rights are created and understood.
  2. Proof and Evidence: Establishing the continuous and uninterrupted use required to claim a Lost Modern Grant can be challenging, particularly when historical evidence is sparse.
  3. Modern Relevance: Some argue that the doctrine is outdated in the context of modern property law, which has evolved to address the complexities of land use and ownership in contemporary society.

Practical Implications

Despite its criticisms, the doctrine of Lost Modern Grant remains practically significant in several ways:

  1. Resolution of Disputes: It provides a means of resolving disputes over land use where formal documentation of rights may be lacking.
  2. Clarity of Rights: By allowing long-term use to establish rights, it contributes to the clarity and stability of land use arrangements.
  3. Balancing Interests: It balances the interests of landowners and those who have used land over a long period, providing a fair mechanism for recognising legitimate uses.

Recent Developments and Future Directions

Recent case law continues to refine the application of the Lost Modern Grant doctrine. Courts are increasingly scrutinizing the evidence presented to support claims and emphasizing the need for clear, continuous, and unequivocal use.


The Lost Modern Grant is a unique and enduring aspect of British property law, rooted in historical principles but continually adapted by modern courts. It serves to recognize and protect long-established uses of land, balancing historical practices with contemporary legal standards. Despite criticisms, it remains a vital tool for resolving property disputes and clarifying land use rights. As property law evolves, the doctrine of Lost Modern Grant will likely continue to adapt, ensuring it meets the needs of modern society while respecting the traditions of English common law.

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This site contains general legal information but does not constitute professional legal advice for your particular situation. Persuing this glossary does not create an attorney-client or legal adviser relationship. If you have specific questions, please consult a qualified attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

This glossary post was last updated: 6th June 2024.

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