“In a high profile case reported in the farming press, clients of Acorn Rural Property Consultants have won an important case against the Crown Estate”, says Mark Sanders of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
Ian and Judith Wakley successfully tendered for a 20 year farm business tenancy of Staple Park Farm on the Crown Estate’s Taunton Estate starting in September 2007. It was advertised as a 220 cow dairy unit on 430 acres and the fixed equipment was described by the Crown Estate’s agents as being up to date and in good working order.
From very early on Mr & Mrs Wakley discovered that all was not as had been described to them. In particular, they found that the milking parlour did not work, the water supply system was wholly inadequate and the dirty water system was faulty and did not have enough capacity for the farm. The combination of the various problems caused large financial losses to the Wakleys who had sold a farm in Scotland and moved to Somerset with a high yielding herd of Holstein cows.
Despite the Crown Estate agreeing to put some of the problems right, they did not do so and Acorn Rural Property Consultants started acting for Mr and Mrs Wakley in 2009. “Our expectation was that the Crown Estate would support its tenants and accept its obligations to put the farm in proper working order”, says Sanders, “but that did not prove to be the case. In the event, the financial losses proved too great for Mr and Mrs Wakley to continue to pay the rent and the Crown Estate served notice on them to terminate the tenancy”, explains Sanders.
What ensued was a long and difficult legal battle with the Crown Estate saying that it wanted the farm back and Mr & Mrs Wakley saying that the reason they could not pay the rent was because of the losses caused by the poor state of the farm and the Crown Estate’s failure to put it right. They also said that the agents had misrepresented the farm when it was advertised to let by saying that it was in good order when they knew that it was not.
Finally, in December 2016, Mr & Mrs Wakley won their case and were awarded large net damages against the Crown Estate. “Some farmers would have given up or would not have had the resources to see through the litigation”, comments Sanders. “However, Mr and Mrs Wakley have an excellent legal team and have been supported throughout by the NFU, which has made the difference between being able to fight their case or not. It is a classic case of David versus Goliath and the judgment is likely to have a significant impact on how farm tenancies are advertised for tender in the future”, concludes Sanders.
For specialist advice on landlord and tenant and other disputes please contact Mark Sanders at Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01278 772655 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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