Scotland’s countryside offers a vast range of property investment options, from houses and cottages to farms and country estates. However, when buying a rural property it is important to consider various issues that may be taken for granted in the purchase of a property in an urban area.

1. Access

Unlike urban properties, which are usually accessible from a publicly adopted road, you will need to establish whether a rural property abuts a public road, or whether it is accessed via private roads that may be owned by a third party. If access is over a private road, there need to be rights in place to allow use of that road.

2. Water

If the property is not connected to the water mains, then it may fall into one of the following categories. With regard to the second and third categories, it is important to consider whether these water supplies will meet the intended needs of the property and the necessary rights are in place.

  • There is no water supply to the property. There could be significant cost associated with providing a new water supply.
  • The water supply is the mains water supply, which reaches the property through a private pipe.
  • The water supply is private and reaches the property through a private pipe. If the property is served by a private supply, water test reports should be obtained to confirm the water is safe to drink.

3. Drainage

The property may not be served by the mains drainage. If the drainage is private, it may be served by a septic tank, outfall or soakaway, which may not be situated in the property. If so, adequate rights to use these will need to be in place.

Septic tanks, outfalls and soakaways need to be registered with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and prospective purchasers should check that the registration is sufficient and there are no ongoing disputes with SEPA.

4. Designations

Rural properties may fall into certain categories of designation that may limit what a prospective purchaser is able to do to that property. These include:

  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest: areas considered of special interest for their flora (plants), fauna (animals), geology or geomorphology (land forms)
  • Scheduled Monuments: this includes Roman monuments, wartime defences, churches, and evidence of prehistoric settlement, amongst others. Scheduled monuments do not impose any extra rights of public access or impinge on landownership, however the landowner would need to apply for consent to carry out certain work, including repairs, planting, erecting fences and flooding operations.
  • Gardens and Designed Landscapes: this designation usually only affects landowners who wish to make changes requiring planning permission to a designated garden or designed landscape.
  • Listed Buildings: buildings of architectural or historic interest. Landowners whose properties fall into this category may need to get listed building consent prior to carrying out any works or repairs, even if normal planning permission is not required.

5. Entitlements and Grants

When buying agricultural or forestry land there may be grant schemes in force. These grants are usually governed by the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate, and impose certain responsibilities on the landowner. Prospective purchasers will want to ensure there have been no breaches of the obligations that could lead to the landowner being required to repay the grant money.

The property may be Integrated Administration and Control System (IACS)-registered. This is the system for managing and controlling payments to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy. IACS registrations run with the land and if it the land is sold or purchased then the new owner will need to complete forms to transfer such registrations.

We have a number of solicitors who are experienced in the sales and purchase of rural property. For more information, please contact one of our team.

With additional reporting by Sophie Dickson.

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