A beginner's guide to buying a rural home

  • Insight

09 April 2021

Scrolling through the property sale pages online seems like the perfect escape at the moment.  The ultimate find for many is likely to be a property with onsite parking, no neighbours, a garden with space and uninterrupted views.  From a legal perspective, buying a rural property differs substantially from buying an urban property so here is a beginner’s legal guide to buying a rural property in Scotland.

Funding & Tax

Further to securing a mortgage and dealing with Land & Buildings Transaction Tax, if you or your partner are buying a second property for example you may be liable for the Additional Dwelling Supplement.  It’s important to think about the tax implications at the outset as this may have a bearing on whether the property is affordable or not.

Access

How is the property accessed? Does it join the public road or is it accessed via a private road?  If it’s the former then access is stated as being “public” and there is nothing to be concerned about so long as there is no gap between the edge of the property and where the public road or verge starts.  However, if the road leading to the property is private there are a number of things to think about:

Does the road belong to the seller? If so, this should be included with the property and you will control the access.
If it is not sold with the property or belongs to a third party you should be granted sufficient rights to use it.

Your solicitor will be able to tell you who else has rights to use the road, what your maintenance obligations are and if there are any restrictions on use.  Sometimes the title deeds can be silent but as long as use of the road has been for at least 20 years, informal rights can be relied on.

Drainage

It’s important to establish whether your rural property is connected to a private drainage system.  All or part of the system might be within the garden or it may be on someone else’s land, in which case rights to use the drainage system will be required and are hopefully detailed in the title deeds.  The titles should also tell you if anyone else is connected to the system or if it supplies your property alone.  You will need to think about emptying a septic tank periodically and what maintenance obligations are imposed. The system should be registered with SEPA (the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency); the seller should deal with registration prior to sale.

Water

Is the property connected to the Scottish Water mains supply or does it have a private supply? The seller should give details and the title deeds should confirm the position.  If private, it must be at a quality suitable for human consumption.  Your solicitor should check that the property has the legal right to use any supply pipes, and your obligations relating to their maintenance.  You may be put off buying a property that has an unreliable supply and the possibility of the system requiring upgrading (at perhaps considerable cost) in the near future. Clear, or at least acceptable, water test reports should be exhibited by the seller. There are various solutions available should the water supply test fail.

Boundaries

Checking the title plan matches what’s on the ground is essential.  The titles should also detail your obligations in relation to boundary maintenance.  The costs may be split between the neighbours or the whole costs may fall on you as property owner.  There also may be stipulations on what type of fencing is required - for example stockproof fencing.  It may not be an immediate concern when you move in but it is something to think about as fencing can cause huge issues between neighbours and be costly to maintain depending on the specification.

Wayleaves for Electricity and Telecommunications Services

Your solicitor might highlight the presence of services apparatus on the property.  If for example electricity cables and poles are located within the garden ground but serve other properties in the area, then you as owner may be eligible for a wayleave payment from the electricity company. 

The titles should also disclose whether there are any burdens affecting your new property. There may be a septic tank within your garden which is connected to the house next door, there may be rights to take access through your garden to third party property or there may be cabling that is underground. Your solicitor will alert you and let you know what you should expect.

Getting these issues right at the start will mean you can put your feet up and enjoy your rural idyll in peace.

You may also be interested in: