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The importance of checking ownership of farmland

Recent figures show that farmland values continued to rise in the first quarter of 2023, but whether you’re considering selling – or buying – land, it’s vital to ensure you can prove that you own it. Senior Solicitor Sarah Parker shares her tips on how to protect your interests.

Have you checked that the deeds you hold match the boundaries of your land? It may seem like an obvious question, but in recent months I have advised many farming clients who, upon selling their land, have discovered that their deeds are different to the land they think they own – even in the case of registered land. Similarly, I have helped clients who are in the process of purchasing land, only to discover that the seller isn’t able to prove full ownership of what they are selling.

It is really important to seek specialist advice from an early stage concerning any land sale or purchase, to avoid having to unravel problems further down the line, which will inevitably result in unnecessary additional expense.

If you’re selling land, the first thing your legal advisor should do is to check the title. Once a sale is agreed you are obliged to answer a standard set of questions about the land – and it’s therefore important to know as much about the land as possible so as to not put potential buyers off.

The general principle that applies to the sale of land is “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware” . Buyers are being more cautious given the current economic climate, so it is key that you don’t try and hide anything: this will only increase the cost of selling your land in the longer term, either by having to resolve issues whilst keeping an eager buyer updated, or as a result of having a claim for misrepresentation being brought against you.

Should you be thinking of buying land, these enquiries and review of the title is your opportunity to ensure you are completely happy with your proposed purchase.

Your solicitor should check that the boundaries of the land accord with the official land registry title so that it’s clear that you know what you are buying. In some cases, I have assisted clients where parcels of land have previously not been included in the land registry title and remained unregistered. This is a concern on many levels – why was it not registered originally? Is this land shown within the deeds used to register the rest of the land? Are there missing deeds?

If the deeds are lost or the land was never included in them in the first place, then it is necessary to act to ensure there is a title over that land via land registry, and to prove possession of the land. These applications take time to prepare, as they are not straightforward and require a good deal of evidence over a large period of time, which increases the cost of the sale or purchase.

Sarah Parker works in our property team and has several years’ experience in agriculture law, advising clients in this sector across the region and beyond.

If you would like any advice on these issues, or for advice on agricultural development, please get in touch with our agriculture and rural affairs team, or contact Sarah Parker on 01482 325242 or via email at

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