Explanation of the nature of Real Property in Guernsey: Rents, 1815

Bails and rents continued, from the Report of the Royal Commissioners Deputed to the Island of Guernsey in 1815. First is a succinct explanation of giving to rent, as selling a property in Guernsey was in effect known, by John Jacob from his Annals of 1830.

A man that has either house or land which he wishes to dispose of, gives it, that is to say, lets it, or more properly sells it to another, to hold to him and his heirs for ever, paying yearly so many quarters or bushels of wheat rent as they can agree for, to which payment he that takes, binds himself and his heirs for ever. Sometimes he that has occasion to take up money on his estate, sells or assigns so many quarters, by charging his whole estate with the payment thereof for ever. Wheat is the most common species in which these rents are to be paid, but sometimes it is barley, oats, etc., and sometimes the rent reserved is in money. He that has thus given a house or land to rent, has neither himself or his heirs thenceforward anymore claim to, or interest in it, than in any other estate of him that has taken it, who upon the taking thus to rent gives a general warrant (or guarantee) upon all his estates real and personal, for the securing this rent, which is assignable from one hand to another; and if it be not paid, those to whom it is due may seize, as well on any other inheritance of his from whom the rent is payable, as on that from whence this rent did first arise, and by an action in the Court of Heritage compel him either to pay or renounce to all his inheritance.

Great caution ought therefore to be used by all strangers purchasing houses or lands, because, by the law of guarantee, so totally different from any other of our English laws, it might affect the estate he had purchased, although he might have given the full value for it either in corn-rent or hard cash [p. 326].

For the purpose of a correct understanding of this term it may be necessary here to remark, that Houses, and Lands, within the Island, are usually purchased and conveyed with a reservation of certain annual Rents, which reserved Rents are according to the Law of the Island real Property, as well as the Houses or Lands, out of which they issue; such Rents are reserved and paid either in Corn, Poultry, Eggs, or other articles the produce of rural industry. But the most usual reservation is that of Wheat, by the quarter, bushell, or other smaller measure. These Rents are assignable either in the whole or in part, and are often subdivided into extremely small portions, for which of course a very trifling pecuniary consideration is given. Thus it is open to every native of the Island to become possessed of Real Property upon the easiest possible terms, and instances were stated to us of very minute Rents being expressly purchased, and then made use of, for the purpose of screening from imprisonment persons who expected to be and afterwards actually were sued and arrested for considerable sums. Other instances were mentioned of such Rents having been bought in the names of persons of very inferior condition, that they might always be in readiness to become Bail for those who actually paid the consideration for the Rents.

British subjects sojourning cannot be Bail unless possessed of real Estate, and admitted to Native Rights. Such admission is rare.

The possession of real Property by one of Your Majesty's subjects sojourning in Guernsey, it must be observed does not confer this right of being Bail, unless he has been admitted to the privileges of a native. If such Subject of Your Majesty be so admitted and be likewise seized of real Estate in the Island, he is as good Bail as the Native who is so seized. The admission however to the rights of a Native which is a Specie of Naturalisation, is very rarely extended to a Stranger. No claim to it is acquired by any length of residence, neither does the possession of real Estate give any Title to it, in which repect the Law of Guernsey differs materially from that of Jersey, where the acquirement of real Estate operates ipso facto as a Naturalisation.

How effected when it does take place.

When this admission of a Foreigner to the Native rights does take place in Guernsey, it is effected by an order of the Royal Court at the Chief-Pleas, founded on a previous Recommendation of the resident Stranger by the Crown Officers, and the Officers of the Parish, and the whole is grounded on a local Ordinance bearing date the 18th April 1726.

Difference hence resulting between a Native and a British Subject sojourning.

It follows from the account here given that no Subject of Your Majesty, sojourning in Guernsey, and not naturalized there, can be admitted as Bail in any case whatever, though he may be possessed of sufficient Property, both real and personal in the Island, whereas a Native of Guernsey possessing a Rent of the smallest value, without any other Property whatever, can be bail for any, the largest sum.

Remedy for malicious Arrest or Attachment.

Where the amount of the sum for which a Defendant may be arrested or held to bail is altogether in the breast of the Plaintiff, as before mentioned, an Enquiry is natural into the remedy, which can be lawfully applied in Case of Arrest or Attachment when made maliciously, and without reasonable or probable cause. The only remedy of that sort we understood to be a Counter Action to recover Damages for such malicious or unfounded proceedings, in which Action there is an Arrest for whatever sum the Plaintiff may claim for Damages, and this in like manner is done without any affidavit whereon to ground such Arrest, and according to the Estimate of Injury or Damage which the Plaintiff himself may choose to fix.

Exemption from Arrest or Attachment arising from possession of real Estate by a native or Naturalized person.

It has been observed that to the above mentioned Process of Arrest and Attachment, all Persons in Guernsey are liable unless there be some special ground of Exemption. The exemption alluded to is the possession of real Estate. Every Native of the Island, or other Subject of Your Majesty, Naturalized there, who is seized of any real Property, however small it may be in point of value, is wholly protected, both in his Body and Goods during the pendency of a suit.

Difference thence arising between Natives and British Subjects sojourning.

With regard to the Privileges thus conferred on the possession of real Property, if it were matter of ordinary or easy occurrence for Your Majesty's Subjects sojourning in the Island, to be admitted to the Rights of Natives, they would certainly be on the same footing as the Natives themselves; but as that is very far from being the case, there results in a material distinction between them. In point of fact, there are but few of Your Majesty's English Subjects naturalized in the Island, and consequently but few who enjoy these privileges though they may hold valuable real Estate. Among the Natives, however, the majority are fond├ęs en heritage, and thereby fully protected; and when they are not already so, they are at least in condition, at any moment, to purchase the protecting shield on the cheapest terms, and to cover themselves with it if desirable.