29 November 2016
Shape your site into a sellable proposition
This summer the House of Lords published a report saying that the Government must build 300,000 homes each year in England to help solve the housing crisis, which is an increase of 50 per cent from its current target.
Although more publicly owned land needs to be released and members of the House of Lords has accused some private developers of hoarding their land, private landowners are an integral part of the solution to the housing crisis. Edward Monniot, associate in the commercial and residential property practices gives advice to landowners on what needs to be done to make their land legally ‘fit for purpose'.
Does your site tick all the boxes?
Your land may be affected by private or public matters which could affect its development potential. These restrictions can be ascertained by reviewing documents from a number of different sources such as the Land Registry and searches and enquiries of your local authority and statutory undertakers.
It can be overwhelming and confusing, so it’s easy to miss the small print. A lawyer can spot what developers will need to know from the outset. For example if a developer is interested in your land, there are factors upon which they will want clarification immediately, such as whether your property has the necessary rights of access, whether there are any enforceable restrictive covenants which would be breached by the development and whether there are any public or private utilities running through the property which would need to be diverted to facilitate development.
Your lawyer can also advise whether or not the property is within the green belt or is subject to an agricultural tie making it more difficult to obtain planning permission for development.
Think like a developer
Your lawyer can also provide solutions as to how difficulties can be overcome in order to make your land a more attractive proposition to developers.
For example, if there is a restrictive covenant registered against your property, your lawyer can ascertain whether it remains enforceable. If it is, then your lawyer can assist you with negotiating any necessary release from the party benefiting from the covenant or (if appropriate) with obtaining appropriate title insurance to cover the risk of developing in breach of covenant.
It is also vital to consider whether your property has the necessary rights of access to the public highway to serve the proposed development. If your land is accessed by way of a private roadway, the right of way over this private roadway may be expressly limited to the existing use of the land. If this is the case, your lawyer will be able to assist you with negotiating any necessary “enlargement” of the right of way with the owner of the private roadway or, where the ownership of the roadway is not known, obtaining appropriate title insurance to cover the risk that the right of way might be challenged.
Seeking planning permission before putting your site on the market can be a time consuming process, with lots of paperwork and mind boggling terminology to digest. You may wish to employ a planning consultant and try to obtain planning permission yourself but if this sounds too cumbersome and costly, an option agreement or conditional contract with a developer is also a possibility. Under such arrangements, a landowner can agree that if a developer secures planning permission within a certain timeframe, they will sell for an agreed price. This can be particularly appealing when your land is currently within the greenbelt as the developer will have the necessary expertise and resources to promote your land for development.
Seek legitimate commercial advice alongside your lawyer
A suitably qualified and experienced l agent will be able to ensure you get a fair valuation for your land. Once the deal is structured, your lawyer will work alongside your agent to document the arrangement to ensure you are protected as much as possible.