If you’re involved in agriculture, there are many different and constantly changing areas in agricultural law that could affect you, whether you’re a landowner, owner farmer, tenant, estate manager or employee.
It’s vital that any farmer or agricultural land owner registers their name on their land, including any property, fields, rivers and forests, to avoid any disputes arising out of land ownership and encroachment on the land.
The registration is regulated by the Land Registration Act 2002. Your agricultural lawyer will ensure that the registration is completed correctly and complies with current legislation.
Farmers today are exploring many different non-farming activities such as commercial and residential lettings, retailing of farm produce, leisure facilities and tourism in attempt to supplement their income. However, farmers wanting to diversify can find several major barriers in their way, such as easements or restrictions on title, obtaining planning permission, securing finance and tax and inheritance implications.
A solicitor will be able to check the freehold title or tenancy agreement to confirm whether there any legal restrictions or obstacles to overcome with regard to changing land use, as well as considering and advising on all of the other aspects.
This is a particularly complicated area of agricultural law with several pieces of legislation covering this topic. For example, with regards to tenancy succession, knowing when the tenancy was granted becomes vital as to whether the Agricultural Holdings Act, known, as ‘the 1986 Act’, or the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 should be applied.
The 1986 Act applies in two situations: tenancies before 12th July 1984 and tenancies between 12th July 1984 and 31st August 1995. Any tenancies after the latter date fall under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 and your lawyer will ensure you know which applies to your situation.
UK farmers rely on nearly 600,000 temporary workers to help them on their farms each year, and approximately half of those temporary workers employed in the UK agriculture industry are from other EU states.
Hefty fines can be given to farmers who employ someone who does not have permission to work in the UK, in addition to a criminal offence of knowingly employing a person who is subject to immigration control, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
Penalties surrounding this legislation can cause farmers to have grave concerns about employing foreign workers, so it is best to consult a lawyer if you may have an issue.
Inheriting the farm
On death inheritance tax is levied at 40% on that part of the value of the estate which exceeds £325,000. It is the market value of assets which is relevant when calculating Inheritance Tax and as agricultural land and buildings often fetch a premium price on the open market, many farming families who own any part of the land they farm could face a potential inheritance tax problem.
There is a relief against inheritance tax known as Agricultural Property Relief (APR) but its availability is frequently misunderstood. It is potentially extremely valuable, particularly for those who qualify for 100% relief. However the current law is complicated so experienced legal advice should be regularly sought to ensure you are maximising your potential relief.
Agricultural law is wide and varied, and all too easy to fall foul of. Tallents have been advising the people of Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire on agricultural law for more than nine generations.