Renting your field for grazing: where does responsibility lie?

  • The prospect of ponies grazing peacefully outside your kitchen window is an attractive one — but it is crucial to do the groundwork before becoming tied up with a tenant. Who’s responsible?

    When renting a field, responsibility for maintenance is entirely dependent on the contract that is drafted. Lucy Winfield at Strutt & Parker says: “You need to take the same approach, whether you are dealing with two or 20 acres.

    “You still need to establish who is responsible for the land — whether it is [for] the insurance or poo picking.”

    Equine lawyer Jacqui Fulton says the onus is usually on the tenant.

    “When advising alandowner client, I mostly suggest the responsibility for fencing maintenance and poisonous plants are with the tenant.

    “This largely prevents claims under the Animals Act when a horse escapes or is poisoned.”

    One size doesn’t fit all

    “Online contracts can be downloaded from the internet, where a small fee is often payable,” explains Jacqui. Prices for a grazing agreement on www.clickdocs.co.uk, for example, start at £15.98.

    “But my warning on one size fits all contracts is that they undoubtedly do not cover all angles,” adds Jacqui.

    Property journalist Carla Passino agrees.

    Downloading a contract online may be a false economy,” she warns.

    “Going to a solicitor with equestrian experience can save you money and heartache in the long run.”

    Jonathan Harington at property company Haringtons UK would “100% advise against a verbal agreement. It is not worth finding that in X years’ time the tenant is claiming rights, because it could have an enormous impact on the value of the property”.

    Lucy says that, when making an agreement, you need to know who you are dealing with.

    “It is important to do your background research and get referencing on [potential tenants],” she says.

    Fixing a price

    How much you can charge will depend on the state of your field and the facilities you are offering.

    The size of turnout, whether you have a field shelter, electricity and running water will all be factors.

    Before agreeing to take the ponies, ask yourself whether you have sufficient space.

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    The British Horse Society recommends 1-1.5 acres per horse, but this will of course vary depending on the size of the animals, the season and number of horses grazing.

    To gauge a general idea of what the going rate is in your area, Dominic Coutts at Winkworth says: “Local equestrian publications and noticeboards in tack shops are invaluable.”

    Jonathan at Haringtons adds that local agents and farmers are worth talking to as well.

    This article was first published in 30 May 2013 issue of Horse & Hound magazine

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