Buying in the countryside: what you need to know

May 04, 2022

Rural properties have become increasingly popular, with buyers looking for a slower lifestyle, especially when moving out of London in search of that idyllic countryside escape.

We’re incredibly fortunate with our branch locations, whether the towns and villages offer that rural location, or in the surrounding areas, there are some stunning countryside properties available. However, with a unique rural residence, unique legal challenges might need to be considered.

Listed buildings

Many rural properties are listed buildings, which along with offering a beautiful place to call home, bring with them restrictions when it comes to renovation. It’s not to say any structural changes are impossible, but there are more requirements for planning in comparison to a standard residential property, which should be considered if you are buying to improve.

Public footpaths

One of the many benefits of living in the countryside is the easy access to walking routes from your doorstep. However, some rural homes have public or private rights of way running through the boundary land or even through the garden. In the legal searches when purchasing, these should become clear, but are worth considering if you have young children or pets, or if you are looking for a high degree of privacy.

Sporting rights

Sporting rights exist on some rural properties to allow access for hunting, shooting, and fishing. Whilst these occasions are rare, it is certainly worth exploring, particularly if the property consists of any large expanses of land or water.

Boundary amendments

Rural properties sold with sizeable land may have been subject to alterations over the years. Today’s boundaries ought to be established and clarified to avoid any unnecessary neighbourly disputes.

Maintained access routes

If you’re looking for something ‘off the beaten track’, you need to ensure that the road to that home is either publically maintained, or that private rights of way exist.

If current access is not legally authorised, perhaps there is an informal arrangement with the existing owner, it would be advisable to take steps to get the legal rights of way ascertained, and if the property is located on an unadopted road there will likely be contributions required with a service charge to contribute towards the continued maintenance and upkeep.

Private drainage systems

Many rural properties are not connected to mains drainage, instead served by septic tanks and cesspits. However, new environmental laws govern the use and discharge of private drainage systems. If you are buying a property with a similar drainage system, you need to ensure that it has suitable drainage rights and that the existing set-up is legally compliant, as it can be costly to bring this up-to-date in line with current regulations.

Restrictive covenants

Covenants affecting the use of land are frequently found in the English countryside. There may be limitations to extensions on existing buildings, or restrictions on the ability to build new homes. Such covenants may require a substantial fee to be paid to release or make changes to them, so if you have plans in mind for your property, do bear this in mind.

Rented land

If a property is sold with significant land, some or all of it may be used by a local farmer. From the outset of the purchase, it is crucial to determine what legal right any third party has to occupy land, as it’s not always easy to terminate rural tenancies. 

If you are looking for a new home in the country, get in touch with any of our local branches who will be happy to assist you in your search, along with making you aware of any legal terms involved with the sale.

Source: Propertywire

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