It is vital for buyers and sellers of equestrian properties to have the same understanding of ‘vacant possession’ to ensure one man’s treasure is not another man’s rubbish.
A seller is during the normal legal process required to remove all rubbish and give vacant possession of the equestrian property and land. Equestrian properties are the ideal place to stash disused and abandoned machinery, piles of broken fence posts, reems of old electric tape, broken brooms and pitchforks all of which should technically be cleared before legal completion to give vacant possession unless otherwise agreed with the buyer.
There is a leading 1946 authority relating to vacant possession. In that instance a basement in a leasehold property was held to be completely unusable due to the extent of rubbish left at completion by the seller. The court held that vacant possession had not been given and set out two alternative tests for this. Firstly, is the seller continuing to use the property for his or her own purposes in a “non trivial” way? In other words, leaving items at the property may be consistent with them looking to use the building. Secondly, is there a physical impediment which is a substantial obstacle to the buyer’s use of the property? Again, referring to the leaving of items at a property.
As well as rubbish the legal process aims to uncover any undocumented occupation of the equestrian property by third parties. For example, ponies grazing, sheep grazing, storage of items in unused stables. It is vital that these third parties vacate and clear the equestrian property prior to completion or if the buyer wishes to continue their arrangement to sign up to a formal licence or tenancy. Vacant possession would then be given subject to such licences or tenancies. When occupation is left un-documented a third party could make a claim for a secure tenancy, which can make it very difficult to gain a vacant equestrian property for a buyer.