Agricultural Ties or Agricultural Occupancy Conditions are planning conditions placed on properties which are given consent to be built in the open countryside where planning permission would not normally be granted.
The wording of these conditions commonly states:
“The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to a person solely or mainly working, or last working, in the locality in agriculture or in forestry, or a widow or widower of such a person, and to any resident dependants”.
But how do you know whether the property you are looking to purchase has an Agricultural Occupancy Condition / Ag Tie?
If a property is being marketed for sale it will normally be stated within the sales particulars whether the property is subject to an Ag Tie. However if it is not and the property is built in open countryside how do you find out?
Land Charges Registers are meant to register all matters that are binding on future purchasers and in theory if you are buying an Ag Tied property the condition will show up on the Register. So when your solicitor undertakes the Local Searches as part of the conveyance it should highlight whether the property has an Ag Tie.
But this is not always the case as Abigail Baldrey explains:
A property owner purchased her family home from her father 2010. The property comprised a single storey detached bungalow, a number of modern farm buildings and was surrounded by a moderate acreage. The dwelling had been granted consent in 1968 as a replacement dwelling for a derelict farmhouse. On the face of it the property had all the hallmarks of an Ag Tied property, however, when the solicitor carried out the Local Search, the results showed no record of an Agricultural Tie. The daughter continued with the purchase and she and her family moved in to the property. In 2014 due to a change in circumstances the decision was made to sell the property.
The Agent marketed the property and a buyer was quickly found. The Buyer’s solicitor again carried out Local Searches and again they came back with no record of an Ag Tie. The sale progressed, the mortgage offer was issued and it looked as through everything was progressing smoothly. However just prior to exchange of contracts the Buyer did some additional research and requested the full planning history for the property. This showed that when the property was granted planning permission in 1968, it was subject to an Ag Tie. This proved to be a huge issue as the Buyer could not comply with the Tie, the mortgage lender would not lend against an Ag Tied property and the whole sale looked to be in danger of falling apart.
Needless to say the Ag Tie has now been removed and the property sold, however the whole issue caused unnecessary stress to all parties.
So if you are buying a house in the open countryside or for that matter just outside a village or town and it looks like it may have an Ag Tie or Agricultural Occupancy Condition how do you check?
You would assume that Ag Ties would be shown in the Land Charges Register but this is not always the case. Although Planning Authorities have an obligation to record on the Register all matters that will be binding on future purchasers, they are not required to record planning conditions imposed before the Local Land Charges Act came into force. This means that for properties granted planning permission prior to 1975, there is a risk that the Agricultural Occupancy Condition will not be recorded.
So how do you know if the property you are interested in purchasing has an Ag Tie?
Firstly always have a Local Search carried out. The vast majority of Ag Tied properties will be identified this way.
Secondly, check the full planning history for the property with the Local Planning Authority. Many Local Authorities have an online planning register, which records planning permissions back to the early 1990s. Prior to that most records are held on microfiche, but if requested the planning department will be able to provide a comprehensive list of all planning permissions submitted with respect to the property that you are looking at. Also consider whether the property has changed its name since planning permission was granted. Many Ag Tied properties when they were granted planning permission were referred to as “Land to the rear of Home Farm” or “Cottage at Home Farm” or “Bungalow in part field 5252”. So to ensure that all applications are picked up submit a plan as well as the address to the Local Planning Authority.
Thirdly ask the vendor. Most vendors will be aware of whether their property has an Ag Tie.
Fourthly, go with your instinct. This may sound strange, but anyone who has dealt with Ag Tied properties or seen a lot of them, knows that they have a certain look about them. So if you have suspicions that the property may be Ag Tied, do some digging and make sure you fully investigate the planning history.
So the moral of the story when it comes to Ag Tied properties is, do not rely on the Local Searches to tell you if a property has an Ag Tie. If you have any doubts do additional research or get Gateway Planning Consultants to check for you. We have many years of experience in dealing with Ag Tied properties and also know how to access the ins and outs of the Local Planning Authorities, Planning History Registers. So before you jump in and purchase your dream house in the open countryside, check and double check!