Considerations When Buying Farmland and Buildings


Often, when buying land or residential buildings that were or currently are in agricultural use, there are further issues that your solicitor will consider in the course of the conveyancing procedure above and beyond a normal house or flat.

If you are buying some land to extend your garden, a barn conversion or an old farm building, the paperwork and searches will be checked and scrutinised thoroughly.

Your solicitor will guide you through each step of the way to deal with these additional hurdles.

It is important to instruct someone in this process who is familiar with and can recognise any potentially troublesome property issues which may affect your enjoyment of the property, or even thinking far into the future, difficulties when you come to sell or remortgage the property.

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Considerations when buying farmland and buildings

Planning restrictions

Your solicitor will check that the property can be used as and has been built in accordance with the correct planning designations.

Your solicitor might check what the current permitted use of the property is and whether a change of use application has been made if this does not suit the future or intended use of the land.

For example, if you are buying a property where land is still deemed to be in agricultural use, then use as a residential property could be in breach of these agricultural planning designations.

Perhaps your intention to use the additional land as a smallholding or new hobby might not be permitted under its current planning use, so you should make sure your solicitor is aware of what you intend to do with the land at an early stage.

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Planning restrictions

Rights of way across your land

If the property is surrounded by working farms, there may be rights of way that those farmers have used across or in very close proximity to your land for a number of years.

They might have used these rights in such a way that they have now obtained rights over your land by using the routes for a long time, even if there is nothing revealed in the deeds.

There are certain enquiries your solicitor will make to ascertain whether there are any rights being exercised across your land by third parties. These rights can be difficult and costly to challenge or remove altogether.

A Local Authority search will also reveal whether any public rights of way exist across the land.

You should consider if this will impact your enjoyment of the property in any way.

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Rights of way across your land

Lost deeds

Lots of farmland has been under the same family for many years.

When this is sold off in parts, there may be issues with locating the deeds if the land is unregistered, as the land may not have changed hands for a long time.

This can be an issue with registration at the land registry as there may be crucial information that your solicitor will need to check located within these documents.

It may also not be clear who really owns the land as there may not be a paper trail as to how ownership has been passed on over the years, especially where land has been passed down through multiple generations.

The title that the land registry grants on your purchase may not be an “absolute” title, which is the best class of title available.

Absolute Title means that no one can challenge the ownership of your property. However, a lower class of title, such as a “possessory” title, means that there could be doubts as to the true ownership and documentary evidence provided.

Deeds may also contain restrictive covenants as to the use of the land. Without knowing what these are, it could be that the land is being used in breach of one of these covenants.

It is not uncommon that in certain deeds for agricultural land, there are restrictions requiring that land be used solely for agricultural purposes, in which case you may need to obtain a release of the covenant if you are planning to keep the land as residential.

A release of a covenant may come at a price.

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Lost deeds

Unwritten arrangements

There may also be arrangements made between the family themselves or other third parties about maintenance, access and other obligations in relation to the land.

These may not be documented and can, therefore, be tricky to enforce if, for example, a shared access road goes into disrepair or your right of way to your property is obstructed.

Unwritten agreements can create a lot of uncertainty, which in turn can be a problem and can cause unwanted disputes.

These kinds of agreements are not liked by a lot of lenders, who want absolute certainty on what arrangements are in place at the property to ensure that their security is protected.

If you are not buying the property with the help of a mortgage, this might not be an issue to you now, but if you eventually sell the land to someone who is, you could find yourself dealing with this problem at a later date.

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Unwritten arrangements

New build warranties

Buying a beautiful new barn conversion, especially if it is from a smaller developer who can make the property bespoke to your wishes, can be a dream for many.

Your solicitor will need to make sure that the builders are not only complying with planning regulations and building control but that there is a suitable new build or structural warranty in place which provides you with adequate protection.

Again, if you are buying with a lender, certain smaller warranty providers are not always acceptable.

A structural warranty is an important form of cover in case you have any structural defects at the property.

Smaller warranty providers are less likely to be approved by a lender as there is a higher chance that the provider could go into administration.

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New build warranties

Buying multiple dwellings

If the farm buildings you are buying consist of multiple buildings, there may be certain tax reliefs available.

Make sure you inform your solicitor of any annexes or outbuildings that you are buying with the main residential property, as specialist tax advice will be needed.

Your solicitor will recommend that you obtain such specialist advice and can point you in the direction of someone who is able to help.

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Buying multiple dwellings

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If you are considering buying farmland, please contact our residential property or agricultural lawyers on: