Saturday, August 12, 2006

Queen of England gets Rat Infested House under Medieval Law

MANCHESTER, England - As royal households go, Queen Elizabeth II's newest acquisition is unlikely to be confused with Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.

No faithful butlers are on call. Tourists certainly won't spot the monarch's insignia fluttering in the wind. The main features of 9 Parkdale Ave. in Manchester, northwest England, are the rats and the collapsing roof. Its value: a not-so princely 35,000 pounds ($66,000).

The queen has been crowned the owner of the abandoned two-bedroom, red-brick house in the city's scruffy Gorton district, thanks to a medieval legal loophole.

Aggravated neighbors had spent the past decade pressing Manchester City Council to fix the derelict, vandalized property. It took years of investigation to identify the building's last owner, a dissolved company. The son of its former director refused to take responsibility for 9 Parkdale Ave., and the rot set in.

Officials at the council spent months scratching their heads until they discovered that, under a 607-year-old law, ownership for abandoned dwellings in the area automatically reverts to the British monarch. The council has asked the queen's law firm, Farrer & Co. of London, for permission to sell the property -- which might fetch a better price because of its royal connections. The queen has not yet replied.

Ralph McCabe, 52, who lives next door, is hoping the queen will spruce up the joint. He says he's caught 109 rats in the past six months. "If she doesn't like it [the house], she could always give it to Prince Charles and Camilla," McCabe suggested. Another neighbor, Peter Hyde, 57, joked that he was thinking of placing a crest on the door and lining the street with Union Jack flags. "Hopefully it could become a big tourist attraction. Then the council would have to do something about this mess," he said.


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