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Rural and Agricultural property: risks and liabilities

Tue 26 November 2019

Associate Rural Chartered Surveyor, Paul McGee looks into some of the underlying risks and liabilities associated with owning rural and agricultural property.

The ownership of rural and agricultural property brings many benefits such as a source of livelihood and employment and, in many cases, a home. Where rural and agricultural property is owned as an investment, it can provide a steady income, and is likely to have increased in value over the years.  It can also be a shield against taxation and there can be huge “windfall” payments if planning permission is obtained for development.

No matter what the purpose of ownership is, it is very important to be aware of the risks and liabilities involved – some of which you may be less aware of than others – as well as how to manage those risks to meet legal requirements.

TREES

The HSE reports that five or six people die each year from falling trees. While that number is relatively low, there is a requirement for property owners to instruct surveys and carry out any remedial work to reduce the risk. A tree surveyor should be instructed to undertake an annual survey; we instruct surveyors on behalf of our clients on the farms and estates that we manage.

LET PROPERTIES

Many rural properties will include residential properties which are let, and being a landlord isn’t an easy job! The list of legal requirements for let properties is increasing year on year; are you up to date? Landlords must think about gas safety checks, Energy Performance Certificates, bonds/deposits, electrical safety, “right to rent” requirements… the list goes on. Our property management team can advise you and set out the options that are available.

SEPTIC TANKS

Changes to septic tank legislation come into force in the New Year meaning that many systems will need to be upgraded or replaced in order to be legally compliant. We have been busy advising our clients and arranging works on the estates we manage and would be happy to help you.

ADVERSE POSSESSION

Is your land correctly registered with Land Registry? It is possible for a party to claim ownership of unregistered land when they have had exclusive use of it for a long period of time. These cases are difficult and expensive to fight and sales are also made easier when the land is registered. If you are unsure if you land is registered or would like help with registering it, give us a call.

INSURANCE

It is important to make sure farmhouses, buildings and contents are fully insured.  Being under-insured can be a costly mistake as insurers are will attempt to ‘average’ any pay-out, meaning that they will only pay a proportion of the sum insured. Reinstatement cost figures used by insurers should be revisited from time to time and you should check that everything is covered.  We can assist by carrying out insurance valuations if required.

It is also important to remember that you are responsible for all parties on your land, even if they are trespassers. Speak to your broker to ensure that you are adequately insured to protect you from any accidents.

MINE ENTRACES & SHAFTS

Lead mining was once a dominant industry in many upland areas of the North and many old mine entrances and shafts still exist and may pose a risk to the public.  Did you know that landowners are responsible for fencing or gating any old entrances, with the exception of where the mines are owned by another party? Responsibility may lie with you if there was an accident, even if the person involved was trespassing on your land. We can investigate if you are responsible for the mine entrances and shafts on your land and put a plan in place for any work required.

A few points to think about, and of course there are many more risks and liabilities associated with owning land and rural property.  If you have any concerns, please get in touch on 01609 781234 or by emailing paul.mcgee@youngsrps.com.  Our team includes experienced land and estate managers who manage estates across the UK for a range of clients and we can advise on all aspects of the management of rural and agricultural property.