If you are considering buying a country property in England or Wales for the first time, there are a number of points you might need to bear in mind. Here we address the top ten that our clients most commonly come across and what you may need to do to make your purchase a smooth one.
A Listed property will be restricted in terms of the works which can be carried out without listed building consent. It is a common belief that Listing only affects the outside of a property. This is untrue; a listing affects both the interior and exterior, and it can affect the adjoining buildings which are considered to be within the ‘curtilage’ of the listed building too.
2. Private water supply
Many country properties have a private water supply, either from their own land or from land belonging to a third party. The supply may also feed off-lying properties. Regulations govern the requirements as to the quality of a private water supply. The right to receive a supply needs to be checked carefully.
3. Ownership of access
Tracks and driveways are a potential bone of contention. It is important to check that a property has sufficient rights of access from the public road.
4. Restrictive covenants
Restrictive covenants are obligations which are imposed when a property is sold, requiring a property owner not to do certain things. They can also be imposed as part of the planning process. They can range from the large (e.g. no building) to small (e.g. not to dry washing except in the rear garden), and, depending on the covenant, they can have a huge impact on the value, use and enjoyment of land.
5. Missing areas of title
The majority of properties and land are now registered at the Land Registry, which gives certainty as to the land being sold. However, country properties do sometimes have areas which are ‘missing’ from the Land Registry title, and there is no documentary title to the land. It is very important that the land you are expecting to acquire is all included the transaction documents.
6. Rights of way
Many country properties are subject to public rights of way, such as bridleways and public footpaths. It is important to consider the location of these to ensure that their use will not affect the enjoyment of a property. Additionally, there may be rights of way which have arisen through other means over a property, which should also be carefully considered.
Flooding has not only a practical impact on properties, but also the risk of flooding can impact on the availability and cost of insurance and bank finance.
8. Stamp Duty Land Tax
SDLT used to be a very straightforward and predictable tax, paid on the acquisition of all property. It has become increasingly complex and there can be a huge variation in the applicable rates of SDLT in relation to country properties in particular. The criteria are not always straightforward to identify and this aspect of the transaction may require careful thought.
9. Farming subsidies
Many country properties have the benefit of environmental or farming subsidies. This is an area in flux as a result of Brexit, and so it is important to have advisors well-versed in the schemes who can advise on how they can be transferred and how they may benefit and impact on a property and its management.
Employees can be a vital component to a country property. However, a new owner may wish to do things differently, including employing new staff. English law contains a number of protections for employees, and they need to be considered when purchasing a property with staff. The circumstances in which these employment regulations apply can sometimes defy common sense, so it is important to check carefully.
Being aware of these different points will leave you more prepared for your country purchase, and seeking advice in these areas early enough is important. With a team of lawyers specialised in the rural market, we can help you on that journey to buy your first country home.