Buying and Selling Farms and Farmland - FAQs

  1.  I’m told the property comes with Entitlements. What are they?

    Entitlements payable under the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) are the most important of the rural grants and payments made by the European Union to support the farming industry.

  2. I also understand that they are due to come to an end?

    In anticipation of Brexit the Agriculture Bill announced a new system of support intended to replace BPS. This will come in the form of a new Environmental Land Management Scheme contracts. The indications are however that this type of support will reduce and be phased out completely by 2027.

  3. What is cross compliance?

    Cross compliance requirements are a set of rules which farmers and land managers must follow on their holding if they are claiming payments under the Basic Payment Scheme and various Agri- environment schemes

  4. Can sporting rights be separated from the land?

    Yes. Fishing, shooting and hunting rights can be sold separately from the land. It is not uncommon to find property for sale but where these sporting rights already belong to another party and are not included in the sale.

  5. Can a right of way be limited to agricultural use?

    Yes. Rights of way can be limited to the extent to which the land being accessed is to be used.

  6. What are the common ways of selling agricultural land?

    There are four main forms of sale : sale by private treaty ; sale by auction ; sale by informal tender ; sale by in formal tender.

  7. What is sale by private treaty?

    The term private treaty means simply that a piece of land or a property is being sold by one party to another without the help of an auction or tender process. The property is listed for sale with an asking price; the buyer makes an offer to the seller or the seller’s agent; the Seller decides whether or not to accept the offer; if it is accepted the usual process of searches and enquiries then take place until the sale becomes binding at the point of exchange of contracts.

  8. What should I look out for in terms of Services?

    As with any other type of property one needs to look into the legal rights for dealing with services such as electricity, telephone, gas, drainage etc. and access to them. However, when considering the sale and purchase of farmland, water is perhaps the service which needs to be looked at most carefully (and which often throws up the most problems).

  9. What is an Overage agreement?

    This is sometimes also referred to as an ‘Uplift’ or ‘ Claw-back’ Agreement. It provides for the buyer to pay extra, on top of the original purchase price, if and when certain events happen (e.g. if the buyer increases the value of the land by obtaining planning permission.

  10.  Part of the property has been let to a local farmer, will this be an issue?

    This will depend on how long the arrangement has been in place and the particular facts of the occupation. Ideally the agreement will be documented. Further details will be needed if the arrangement is a verbal arrangement to ensure a grazier or tenant has not unintentionally been granted security of tenure. Sufficient notice will need to be given to a tenant to ensure vacant possession can be provided on completion, if required.

  11. How will I know if there are any restrictions on how the land can be used?

    Restrictions on the use of the land will be detailed in the property deeds or title register. In addition to the presence of any covenants, consideration needs to be given to whether or not those covenants are enforceable (a strict set of criteria applies). These are important issues and must be investigated fully to ensure the land can be used as intended.

  12. How will I know if I own a stream / river situated on the boundary?

    In the absence of clear provisions concerning boundary ownership in the deeds / title register the boundary presumption, where a stream divides two parcels of farmland, is that the adjacent landowners will own up to the middle line of the stream on their side.

  13. How will a local authority deal with a planning application if I want to diversify from agriculture into tourism, or have a farm shop?

    There is a general presumption against development and uses in open countryside that are not related to agriculture and forestry. However, in many emerging local plans there is clear recognition that there is a need to diversify away from agriculture into other sectors such as tourism or potentially having a farm shop, or re-using buildings for other purposes – such as a hotel. In assessing such an application, they would have due regard to the planning policies in the development plan that support such uses.

    Other relevant considerations would be where the development is, if for instance, it was an area of outstanding natural beauty or another protected landscape, how the development would affect the landscape and other usual planning considerations would arise in terms of traffic impacts and any other adverse effects on the location of the development. In practice, this would be explored initially through a pre-application discussion with the local authority before committing resources to a full planning application for change of use.

  14. How can I get an agricultural tie removed and find another use for my property?

    The majority of agricultural ties are usually imposed by condition and/or by a planning obligation in a 106 Agreement. There are primarily 2 ways that an agricultural tie can be removed. The first means to remove an agricultural tie is to suggest to the Council that the planning condition no longer forms a valid planning purpose and the usual route undertaken is to undertake a marketing exercise to seek to dispose of the property and if no purchaser comes forward, in the agricultural community then an application is made to the local authority to, in effect, remove the condition. This is dependent on a lack of interest in the property when marketed. Often there is a 106 obligation which is also attached to the property. If there is no need for the imposition of the planning condition, an agreement can be reached with the local authority to in effect discharge the 106 agreement. Alternatively, if the 106 agreement is more than 5 years old then an application can be made under Section 106A to discharge the planning agreement.

    Secondly, if the agricultural tie has been breached for a continuous period of 10 years, then it is possible to make an application for a lawful development certificate to the local authority, this in effect makes lawful a breach of the occupancy condition on the basis that it is immune from enforcement action. This approach will render a current use of the premises lawful but should the use revert back to agricultural, then the original tie will be re-implemented.

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