Legal pit falls of selling or buying sites

Sites which have been carved out of farmland are often set back from a public road and as a result the purchaser will often require rights over the vendor’s land. The primary right required for sites use will be access and will often require the use of a shared laneway owned by the farmer.  It is wise for the farmer to keep ownership of any lane way required if they will also require its use to access additional land. It must be remembered that the site will usually require visibility splays where the access lane meets the public road and these will need to be maintained in line with the planning approved conditions. The rights over the lands within these visibility splays must be settled as part of the site sale and contract.

If the site does not front a publicly maintained road, the purchaser may need rights to run pipes and cables from the road over the farmer’s land to provide services to the site.  Rural properties are often not connected to a public sewer in which case foul waste is dealt with using a treatment plant. Consent must be obtained from NI Water who will approve the location of the tank and any soakaway pipes.  The tank and/or pipes may need to be located outside the boundary of the site being sold and a farmer should be aware that they may need to grant additional rights to a purchaser to have the septic tank in their adjoining land.  If any additional rights for services need to be granted to a purchaser over any adjoining land not owned by the farmer, then third parties would need to be approached and this can be time consuming and costly.

The Planning Permission should always be carefully checking to ensure there are no onerous conditions in it which may reduce the marketability of the site or would restrict a purchaser getting a mortgage to purchase the site.  One example of this would be a condition which says the dwelling to be built on the site can only be occupied by agricultural workers who work in or around the location of the site.

Once Planning Permission is granted, the farmer needs to have a map drawn up showing the exact measurements of the boundaries of the site and the location of any rights to be granted for services which the purchaser will then register in the Land Registry.  Care must be taken to ensure it is accurate to avoid any problems down the line with title maps not corresponding with the boundaries on the ground.

If necessary, a farmer should contact the appropriate government departments to advise of any changes in their DARD farm maps and any amendments that need to be made to their Single Farm Payment once the site is sold or transferred.

In the case of a site which is gifted or partly gifted, if the transferor is elderly or infirm then he/she should be aware that there is a possibility it could be construed by Social Services as a deprivation of benefit if the transferor ever requires residential or nursing care or receives any other state benefits in the future.  This is complicated area of law and specialist legal advice should be sought before proceeding with the gift.

If you have any questions or would like some free advice, please get in touch here.