Buying a plot of land – read our legal guide
If you have the opportunity to buy a piece of land you can do what you want on it – right?
Wrong - most definitely! Buying a piece of land can be a major investment so it is important to understand exactly what you are buying and its potential for future uses. Here we look at some of the common scenarios for buying land and some of the legal considerations.
Buying a plot of land next to your home
You might be offered some additional land adjacent to your existing garden to make it larger and /or to provide a buffer zone between you and any future development. Perhaps you and a neighbour/neighbours are clubbing together to buy it. This has the potential to add value to your property and also gives you greater control – a buffer zone between you and the rest of the world.
However, it is important to understand if the land is farmland, woodland, a brownfield site etc as there may be restrictions on incorporating it into your existing garden, so planning advice should be taken. If you are buying land as part of a group of neighbours you should have a legal agreement in place which covers issues such as access, maintenance, boundary ownership and repairs, usage etc. Whilst on the face of it this might seem straightforward, there are a number of legal considerations to take into account with a land purchase of this type.
Buying a plot of land to build a house on
Some plots of land are sold with full or outline planning permission but it is important to understand what the local planning authority will allow, especially if you are looking to build your own ‘grand designs’ style house.
There may also be restrictions, for example on the use of specific types of construction materials especially if the plot of land is in a conservation area or affects a listed building, so it is important to take appropriate advice. Look out for wayleaves, easements or restrictive covenants that will restrict the use of the land or which require further payment if there is an uplift in value. Use a solicitor with specialist knowledge of these types of land purchase.
Buying a plot of land to keep livestock or horses
If you are buying a plot of land which already has livestock or horses grazing on it then you need to check that the appropriate permission is in place and also if there is any lease agreement with the current user if they are not the owner.
If you plan to introduce livestock or horses onto the site, you will need to satisfy yourself that you can also erect any necessary buildings for housing them, plus supplying them with water. Boundaries will be especially important to stop them from escaping onto neighbouring land or roads as will security measures, due to the rise in rural crime.
You will need to understand if rights such as sporting rights are specifically excluded from the land sale which could affect your future use and enjoyment of it. Also check if there are any footpaths, byways or general rights of way across the land which could be affected by the introduction of specific animals. Landowners must not deliberately obstruct a right of way but they can erect new stiles or gates with permission from the highways authority.
Also be aware of applications to register land as a town or village green. These applications have risen in number over recent years and are often used by local communities to prevent the development of land. If a previous landowner has not objected to people accessing their land for recreational use, for example dog walking, then it could be described as a right of way and lead to the land being registered as a town or village green.
Buying a plot of land for your own recreational use
Some land might be specifically marketed for sporting use such as hunting or fishing subject to the laws governing these activities. Buyers might be looking for land for wider recreational use, for example to use quad bikes, motor bikes and other off-road vehicles.
You can use these types of vehicle on your own private land but you may be subject to complaints from neighbours about noise which can travel a significant distance. You would be advised to speak to a planning expert ahead of your land purchase to understand exactly what you can and can’t do regarding it.
The purchase of any land shouldn’t be rushed, so make sure you take the right professional and legal advice to ensure you get it right.
Catherine Lloyd is a partner and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org