“We last discussed the breach of occupancy conditions in January 2018 but a recent instruction provides a useful reminder of some of the key issues”, says Brian Dinnis of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
“We were contacted by the purchaser of what had been an agricultural worker’s dwelling that was subject to an agricultural occupancy condition (AOC). The previous owner was not involved in farming and had occupied the dwelling in breach of the AOC for more than 10 years. Some years before the sale a lawful development certificate (LDC) had been granted by the local planning authority to confirm that the occupation of the dwelling in breach of the AOC was lawful. The purchaser, who was also not involved with farming, had relied on the LDC when they bought the property”, explains Dinnis.
“During our investigation of the use and occupation of the property it became apparent that there was a period of time after the LDC had been granted when the property may have been occupied by someone who did comply with the AOC. What the purchaser’s solicitors had missed is that the grant of the LDC did not remove or modify the AOC, it merely confirmed that, as at the date the LDC was applied for, the AOC was unenforceable. In this case, because a qualifying person had been in occupation within the 10 year period prior to the purchase of the property, the enforceability of the AOC had been re-established, notwithstanding the previous grant of the LDC”, continues Dinnis.
“It is important to remember that it is not just re-compliance that can re-establish the enforceability of an AOC (or other planning conditions). A breach of condition only becomes immune from enforcement if there has been a continuous breach for at least 10 years. What that means is that if the breach ceases, for example when a property is empty for a period of time and is not therefore occupied in breach of an AOC, it ceases to be lawful”, advises Dinnis.
For further information please contact Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 212380