Gathering in the paperwork

The sun is shining, the May is out. The trees are dressed in their most vibrant green. The forage fields are rolled. The lambs are sparkling white and frolicking in the buttercups. The thistles are yet to show. All in all, the countryside is looking at its best. What an ideal time to get the camera out and get some fantastic pictures of the farm for that glossy brochure to be released later this year!

This seems a pretty obvious step in preparing a farm for sale, but there are other just as important tasks which often seem to be overlooked. There is invariably a large bundle of documents associated with a farm sale and it is so worth while to pull all that documentation together well in advance of going to market. As a solicitor, there is nothing more frustrating than a farm sale being delayed, or even pulled, because the right paperwork cant be located when required.

One area that is particularly relevant to the North East is private water supplies. Many of our farms may have originally been part of a large estate, or simply have been served by a large, private supply passing through various land ownerships and serving several end users. Often, the rights and responsibilities of these supplies is not properly documented, if documented at all! Even the location of the pipework can present a mystery.

For buyers from elsewhere, this type of arrangement is an anathema and they can be very reluctant to part with a large sum of money for a property without a legally robust water supply. I can think of two major farm sales in the region that fell apart due to concerns over the private water supplies. Although there may be a cost attached, it is well worth formalising the water supplies before going to market. The same applies to shared septic tanks although they are often simpler.

A buyer will of course expect to see Title plans, but all documents relating to the land will be required. These may include tenancy agreements, sporting and other rights, acreage schedules, cropping, input and fertility records, BPS claims and agri-environment scheme contracts, abstraction rights, wayleaves and easements. There will also need to be a definitive plan of rights of way, plus any third party reserved rights such as rights of access or timber extraction from the neighbouring forest.

Then there are further considerations attached to the buildings. Are they Listed and can you find the Energy Performance Certificates? Are there any planning consents in place, do the tenants pay their rent and what are the Council Tax rates? There might be Building Regs Certificates to gather up along with safety documentation such as boiler safety certificates, electrical inspections and asbestos surveys. A recent concern for buyers is broadband. What is the download speed and capacity of the network? Is high speed broadband available?

A farm sale is not just a pretty picture and a nice map. If a sale is to progress smoothly, then a considerable amount of work needs to have been done before the first potential vendor sets foot on the place. It makes my life a great deal easier to!

If you would like any further information or to discuss any rural related matter, please contact Tom Wills, head of the agriculture & estates department at Sintons.

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