What Makes Agricultural Land Different?
Solicitor Michael Rutter of Forbes explains why it is vital to consult a specialist lawyer when dealing with agricultural land and property
Property is usually one of the biggest, if not the biggest, single investment that people make. This is especially true with agricultural property or land which is often a fundamental part of agricultural businesses (for example farms) or the fruits of a lifetime’s worth of work.
Agricultural property can be far more specialist than many people first appreciate. For example, even the seemingly straight forward transfer of a small field can involve additional considerations such as the transfer of Entitlements (for example Single Farm Payment and the like), any applicable Agri-environmental Agreements (such as Stewardship Agreements) and Sporting Rights and Fishing Rights. Without these additional considerations, often the intended use or enjoyment of the land could be compromised and therefore these are important to make sure that what you think you are buying, you in fact get.
In respect of Entitlements, these do not automatically transfer with the relevant land upon which they are claimed. This is because they are in effect personal to the particular farmer, as opposed to the land in question.
On this basis it is very important to make sure that if it is intended that they transfer to you when you buy the land, which is most commonly the case, that this is provided for in the legal documents. If this is not the case, there is a risk that they have not in fact been transferred to you. This could then involve costs of thousands of pounds to rectify if new Entitlements have to be bought from the relevant authority (currently the Rural Payments Agency). There are also strict deadlines in relation to how and when Entitlements can be claimed. Your solicitor should advise you as to any necessary arrangements, particularly if any apportionments are needed, so that you can comply with the same.
Similarly, it is important that any Agri-environmental Agreements are transferred and to ensure that any payments due under the same and associated obligations, are passed to you. It is therefore very important that you have full knowledge of any obligations in such Agreements as you will have to adhere to these moving forwards, and that you have the benefit of any payments due under the same to which you may be entitled.
Agreements for Sporting and Fishing Rights can be crucial to the use and enjoyment of agricultural land and it is easy to presume that these rights will automatically pass or belong to the owner of the land when in fact they are leased out to a third party. This means it is very important to carry out full enquiries with the seller to ensure that all the rights you believe you are buying along with the land, are indeed included and not subject to any adverse third-party rights.
Additionally, raising agricultural specific enquiries can uncover any issues – usually arising from the current or historic use of the land for agriculture. Often farming practices can involve potential contamination of the land, mainly due to the materials used, and can also require certain permits and authorities due to the nature of the practices. Standard commercial or residential enquiries would not necessarily identify such agricultural specific matters.
Obtaining specialist advice can ensure that the right questions are asked so that any issues are dealt with to make sure that the property being bought is what is expected (therefore ensuring that the grass is greener on the other side).
Forbes Solicitors offer a specialist agricultural service, which is tailored to give specialist advice to ensure that any issues along with the stress and hassle of buying agricultural property are taken care of.
For information please contact solicitor Michael Rutter by email: email@example.com or call on 0333 207 1130