This month Fraser Wilson focuses on the term “Agricultural Occupancy Condition”
An Agricultural Occupancy Condition (AOC), also known as an Agricultural Tie, restricts the occupancy of a property to specific persons. The wording of the exact clause in each case can differ, however, generally they will state that
“the occupation of a dwelling will be limited to a person solely or mainly employed, or last employed, in agriculture or forestry including dependants.”
The definition of agriculture itself can cause some debate, but is described in Section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as being “horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming and the breeding and keeping of livestock (including any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land)”.
The consequence of occupying a property whilst not satisfying an AOC could lead to enforcement action being taken by the Local Planning Authority (LPA), but generally speaking AOCs ensure that the British countryside is preserved for future generations, and provide a route to gaining planning permission in a rural area where the need for residential property can be justified.
AOCs can have an impact on the value of a property due to the condition limiting the market that can live in a tied house, dependant entirely on the factors relating to each case. It is possible to remove AOCs, however, this would only be permissible in two instances: that there is no longer a requirement for the tie to exist i.e. agricultural worker accommodation is no longer needed in the area, or if the tie is no longer enforceable i.e the wording is problematic or the property has been occupied in breach for 10 years or more. If the latter is the case, then a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development can be applied for to render the existing occupancy lawful. This certificate can then be used as evidence in an application to remove an AOC entirely to ensure permanent security.
Therefore, whilst AOCs are a tool used by LPAs to help preserve the countryside and the rural way of life, they can pose a frustration to vendors and purchasers alike. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure you use an Agent that has experience with such properties and to employ the appropriate assistance from solicitors and planning consultants to make any purchase or sale as successful as possible.