Digging into issues of buying & selling land

Philip Taylor

Buying and selling agricultural land can be complex because of the wide range of matters that need to be considered, including the precise location of boundaries, the existence and route of any rights of way, arrangements for the supply of water and drainage, sporting and fishing rights, the rights of tenants in occupation, subsidies and quotas, planning restrictions and possible tax consequences.

In this article, Philip Taylor, Licensed Conveyancer and experienced agricultural property expert with Pearsons & Ward Solicitors in Malton, North Yorkshire explains why, given the complexities, it is important to always seek specialist advice. 

‘People often assume that buying and selling agricultural land is the same as buying and selling any other land, but this is not the case.  Agricultural land raises unique issues which require careful handling to ensure everything is in order.  Dealing with agricultural land requires a depth of knowledge and experience most residential conveyancers do not have.’

Boundaries

Sometimes the boundary lines of agricultural land are not clear, particularly when fencing and hedging runs parallel or where encroachment into an adjoining area of land has occurred.  It is important that the precise boundary lines are ascertained to avoid the risk of a dispute later down the line.  Where a boundary appears to have been moved to incorporate adjoining land, investigations are needed to determine whether enough time has passed to entitle the seller to claim it as their own.  

Rights of way

There is an extensive route of public rights of way in the countryside, coupled with a right to roam in certain areas.  Finding out whether land is affected by such rights is crucial, particularly if you intend to develop it.  It is also necessary to investigate the existence of any private rights of way that exist.  

Access and service rights

If the land currently benefits from services such as water and drainage, and the pipes or cables bringing those services on to the land run across the land of anyone else, checks will need to be made to ensure the necessary rights and permissions are in place.  Where services do not currently exist, but you plan to install them, new rights will have to be negotiated.

Sporting and fishing rights

The right to hunt, shoot and fish on land can be a valuable commodity and as such it in not unusual for these rights to be sold off separately.  If you are considering buying land that benefits from sporting rights it is important to establish whether they are included in the sale.  

Tenancy arrangements

If all or part of the land you propose to buy is tenanted, then it is important to clarify the tenancy arrangements as while some tenants can be asked to leave on 12 months’ notice, others have the right to remain in occupation for life and even to pass their tenancy on to successive generations.   

Other considerations to be mindful of include:

  • planning restrictions unique to rural areas which may either help or hinder development plans;
  • the existence of wayleaves with utility providers;
  • the need to apply for or transfer, as appropriate, any available subsidies and quotas;

If you are thinking about buying or selling agricultural land, or any other farm property, please contact Philip Taylor on 01653 692247 or email philip.taylor@pearslaw.co.uk.