QI own 60 acres of rural land in Cumbria and am considering leasing part of it to a game shooting syndicate. The farm has recently been passed to me through an inheritance so I wanted to know what I should be putting in place to ensure the lease is tight and understood by both sides? I don’t keep any animals on the land, nor are there any rental properties within the boundary.
ANICK PLAYFORD, associate at MFG Solicitors, answers: The first consideration is that of inheritance. Without knowing any specific details, it is possible that the former landowner had sought and implemented specific tax advice. The importance of agricultural property relief and business property relief is dependent on the circumstances, but you would not wish to jeopardise the effectiveness of possible tax reliefs. Letting to a private, noncommercial shoot, even if such a shoot is established via a syndicate, might not be seen to be sufficiently agricultural to safeguard the reliefs. So it is always important to seek specific tax advice from your accountant.
Consideration should also be given to whether a lease is actually appropriate. If other agricultural and woodland activities are being pursued by the landowner, as is often the case, it might be more pertinent to draft up a shooting licence to reflect the fact that exclusive possession will not actually be granted.
Whether a lease or licence is appropriate, it is important to contract with the appropriate parties who will be managing the shoot or syndicate. The lease should cover the BASC Code of Good Practice; the number of days to be shot per year (especially if this may conflict with other activities on the farm); the number of birds to be shot; vermin control and the precise areas on the farm which can be shot, ideally with reference to plans and clear marking, including vehicle tracks or a lunch lodge. It should also clearly set out both parties’ ongoing responsibilities.
Other important clauses are reserved rights for the landowner such as carrying out usual operations on the land such as the laying or rerouting of any service media, roads, tracks, paths and fences. There should also be robust clauses safeguarding the landowner’s liability.
Finally, if you do enter into a lease, it is probable that you will need consent from the bank. The landowner will, most likely, wish to comply with the exclusion of the 1954 Landlord and Tenant Act provisions.