Overriding interest is an English land law concept. The general rule in registered conveyancing is that all interests and rights over a piece of land have to be written on the register entry for that land, otherwise, when anyone buys that piece of land, the interests won't apply to the purchaser, and the rights will be lost. Overriding interests are the exception to this general rule. Overriding interests need not be registered to bind any new owner.
Overriding interest was created because it was perceived that for several classes of interest, it would be unreasonable to expect such interests to be registered. Such interests include short-term leases, seen as being too minor an interest to burden with the bureaucracy of registration. They include the rights of people in actual occupation, perhaps unaware of their legal rights. They also include public rights of way, as it was not clear who should be made to register them.
Overriding interests were introduced by section 70 of the Land Registration Act 1925, now replaced by the Land Registration Act 2002 Schedules 1 and 39(English Law). However, case law based on the 1925 provisions is generally thought to still be good law.
In a leading case, Williams & Glyn Bank v Boland, a wife successfully claimed an overriding interest in a property her husband had mortgaged to support a failing business. As she did not have a legal interest in the property, but had made substantial contributions to the purchase and was in actual occupation of the property, her overriding interest was upheld when the bank tried to take possession.
There has been some recent academic concern over the effect on overriding interests of the Human Rights Act 1998. If a purchaser were to buy property, only to find themselves subject to numerous restrictive or expensive obligations that they did not and could not have known about, they may have some relief courtesy of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.