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Agricultural occupancy conditions – your options

An agricultural occupancy condition is often imposed on new rural properties. They limit the use and occupation of the property to those employed in agriculture and were originally aimed at ensuring that the dwelling remains available to the wider agricultural community. It is only when properties subject to such conditions are being sold or change hands, that the conditions can become problematic. New owners may not be able to comply with the conditions and owners may find it difficult to sell properties subject to them. Faced with this, there are several options as to how best to deal with them.

Option 1 - Satisfying a condition

Those satisfying the agricultural occupancy condition have no issue. Others need to consider if they can comply with the condition. Agriculture is defined in the Agricultural Acts dating back to the 1940s.  Employed in agriculture means “involved with growing crops or looking after livestock”. Those supplying services to agricultural businesses such as contractors, do not normally comply.

Option 2 – Removal of condition

This has to be done by way of a planning application, underpinned by proof that there is no longer any need for an agricultural dwelling on the holding or in the locality. This can usually be demonstrated by the failure of an extended marketing campaign to find a buyer for the property who is able to comply with the condition.

Option 3 - Non-compliance with a condition

Breach of the condition will be unenforceable if sufficient time has passed and the local authority can no longer take action. In the case of agricultural occupancy conditions, this is 10 years. If non-compliance has occurred continuously for 10 years or more, a Certificate of Lawful Existing Use or Development (CLEUD) can be applied for and this allows for occupation without complying with the condition.

Option 4 - Amending the condition

It is possible to amend a condition, for example to bring it into line with modern wording or to add other quasi-agricultural uses such as grazing horses. This also has to be done by a planning application to the local authority.

Our Chambers-rated agriculture and estates team handles the acquisition and sale of a wide range of rural property including agricultural land, farms and country houses.