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A guide to buying agricultural land: our top tips
Have you considered buying agricultural land? If so, here are some of the things you should consider as well as some top tips from WSP Solicitors’ Commercial Property Team.
As like all other property transactions, the onus is on the buyer to find out as much information as they can before exchange of contract. The principle “Caveat Emptor” or “buyers beware” applies. It is therefore important to consider the following before committing to buy any Land:
Is the agricultural land title registered or unregistered?
Whilst most land is now registered at the land registry, there are still large areas of land that remain unregistered. Whilst this will not prevent you from purchasing the land, unregistered land requires more in-depth investigation to ensure that the owner(s) have the legal title to sell the land and to check whether the land is affected by any covenants or restrictions.
Access to the land
Does the land you wish to purchase adjoin a public highway or will you require rights of access over surrounding land to access the highway?
It is important to consider what you intend to use the agricultural land for and whether you will have the required access to and from the land via foot or vehicle.
A highways authority search would reveal whether the land abuts a public highway. However, if there are private rights over another’s land, this is likely to be noted on the Title and in most cases detailed on the Plan.
Are there clear boundaries separating the land that you are to purchase?
The title plan should be considered against the sale particulars and any plan received from the Seller.
You will also need to consider the maintenance responsibilities of the boundaries. These maintenance responsibilities are often not on the Land Registry titles but are often noted in pre-registration deeds and documents that are noted on the title. The pre-registration deeds will need to be reviewed to determine who is responsible for the boundary and whether there is a requirement to contribute towards the maintenance of the boundary.
If you purchase part of the land, then new boundaries will be created and It will be for the Seller and purchaser to agree the type of boundary, to be erected by whom and by when. The plan should identify the boundary lines and where new boundaries are to be established.
Usage of the land
Before entering into a purchase of land, you should consider:
- What is the land is currently used for?
- What do you intend to use the land for?
- Are there any restrictions on the land which may prevent you from changing the use of the land, obtaining planning permission or redeveloping the land?
- Are there any leases or tenancies on the land that may impact upon your intended use?
- Is the Seller selling the land subject to overage provisions and will this prevent you from using the land for your intended use?
You may need to check whether consent will be required for the change of use.
Is the land to be sold vacant possession? Or are there any tenancy agreements/ licenses in place?
If there is a tenancy agreement / licenses in place, new paperwork will need to be drafted and put in place at completion.
Agricultural land leases and tenancies
When buying agricultural land, you should consider whether the land is currently occupied and if so, by whom.
You will need to consider whether or not the lease or tenancy agreement has security of tenure and whether or not they have been registered at the Land Registry. If the tenant has security of tenure then you are bound to accept the agreement and its terms. If the tenant does not have security of tenure, you may consider to agree to the lease or tenant agreement but there is no requirement to do so.
An easement is a right which grants right of access or right of way to a third party.
You will need to consider whether there are any easements over the land you are to purchase.
Easements are created by a deed and are usually noted on the Title of the property. It is then for your solicitor to obtain a copy and review the deed to identify the route of access and who has the benefit. The deed may also document whether there are any responsibilities for repairs and maintenance and who is to contribute. If the responsibility for repair and maintenance are not documented, then the benefitting party has a right to repair and maintain the easement but they are not obligated to do so.
Are there any restrictive covenants on the agricultural land?
A restrictive covenant is a property right and binds the land.
If there are any restrictive covenants on the land, these will be noted on the title documents. The registered deed containing the restrictive covenant should be obtained and reviewed to identify what the restrictive covenant is. For example, a restrictive covenant may be in place to prevent development on the land which, when sold, will continue to apply to the new buyer.
A restrictive covenant may be released via a deed of release; however this must be agreed with those who can enforce it.
These are an important part of the due diligence in a purchase transaction and should always be obtained, except in exceptional circumstances.
Searches can reveal, whether the land is affected by:
- Any planning applications, notices and permission
- Rights of way/access over the land
- Environmental issues
- Chancel check liability
- Coal mining
Acting under the “caveat emptor” principle, it is prudent to raise pre-contract enquiries with the Seller. The sellers are to provide their replies to the best of their knowledge to avoid future disputes based on misrepresentation.
The agricultural land enquiries are comprehensive and it would be for your solicitor to decide which enquiries are most appropriate in your transaction.
WSP Solicitors have a specialist and experienced Commercial Property Team who have helped many clients buy or sell agricultural land. To get in touch for help or more information you can use the web form here. Alternatively you can call us on 01453 847200.
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