The industry of agriculture is unique in that it encapsulates traditions and values bred over generations, while it is simultaneously at the forefront of technical and biochemical advancement. Birketts’ Agriculture and Estates Team has lawyers with unique specialisms to make sure every client’s needs can be met – Abi Rudd and her colleagues are experts in the field of equine property law.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your team.
I joined the Agriculture and Estates Team at Birketts in August 2021. I specialise in equestrian property matters for both commercial and private clients. I have joined an already strong and nationally-renowned team of specialists in the equestrian sector.
Why equine property?
Since the age of five when my unsuspecting dad first took me to a local riding school, I have been completely and utterly devoted (dare I say, obsessed) with horses. Since then, my world has revolved around horses and everything to do with them.
Whilst carrying out my academic studies to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive, I became increasingly interested in the way that equestrian property stood out from any other type of property at law. Like the equestrian world generally, it is quite peculiar!
Why is this a complex area of law?
For a start, a vast majority of the arrangements for keeping horses on land are purely verbal. At the time this may appear to be a money-saver, but it often results in costly disputes. In addition, the law treats the occupation of land by horses in a number of different ways, depending on how the horse is being used and the treatment that it receives.
Can you give an example of how this could impact landlord and tenants?
You may be a landowner and consider letting some of your fields to an equestrian tenant for grazing their horses. You agree that the arrangement will be informal and decide that there is no need for a written agreement. The tenant takes occupation and moves their horses onto the fields. Over time, more and more horses appear on the land but the rent is paid on time and so you, the landowner, remain happy with the arrangement. As time goes on, you decide that you could make use of this area of land for another purpose and you ask the tenant to leave.
It is at this point that the tenant explains that they have been carrying on a livery business and therefore they have obtained statutory security of tenure. As a result, the tenant is entitled to remain on the premises and ask for a new lease on the same terms (which is particularly tricky when the ‘original terms’ were purely verbal). In order to remove the tenant, you would have to rely on one of a handful of statutory grounds (which our colleague Simon Green outlines in his article on the commercial lettings of agricultural buildings) and may face having to pay the tenant compensation. Suddenly, having an ‘informal’ arrangement doesn’t seem like such a good idea!
I’m a landowner looking to diversify. I’ve been considering letting part of my farm as an equestrian facility. How can you help me?
Equestrian properties are always in high demand. The last survey carried out in 2019 by the British Equestrian Trade Association stated that there are over 374,000 horse-owning households in the UK with over 27m people in the UK having an interest in the equestrian sector. The survey stated that while rider numbers were increasing, the lack of access to equestrian facilities continues to be a barrier. The availability of land and space to keep and exercise horses is integral to the continued growth of the sector.
Before looking at converting part of your land to equine use it is important to consider what facilities you will be able to offer, how much involvement you wish to have and the basis of any equestrian tenant’s occupation. In addition, it is important to think about the practical aspects and the synergy with your current land uses and any grants or subsidies that you may be receiving. Together, we can discuss the options available and determine the best structure for your equestrian venture.
What else can your specialists help with?
The team’s expertise spans equestrian property, commercial contracts (including bloodstock, horse-sale and syndicate arrangements), commercial litigation and property litigation matters (including, but not limited to, the removal of horses). We can also provide advice on other matters relating to the equestrian sector including planning, employment, tax, estate planning and international wealth.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2022.