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What rights can third parties have over your land and how can they be exercised?


Landowners may wish to grant rights to third parties over their land in return for a payment or income. It is important to understand how those rights can be exercised and what landowners can do if the third party’s use exceeds the scope of that right.

Wayleaves and easements

Many landowners will be familiar with the rights granted to power companies, and others, to run cables over and under land known as wayleaves or easements.

A wayleave is a licence typically given to power companies to install, use and maintain their apparatus in return for annual payments being made to the landowner. An express wayleave usually contains provisions enabling a landowner to terminate on notice or it may be granted for a fixed term. It will not bind future owners of the land and will expire if the land is sold or if the owner dies.

An easement can also be used to grant rights to power companies; an easement is generally a permanent arrangement and will ‘attach’ to the land rather than the owner. The rights in an easement are generally granted in return for a one off payment.

In both cases it is important to negotiate the terms of the arrangement rather than to accept the standard terms provided by the power company. It is equally important to understand what the power company is and is not entitled to do on your land so that you can take steps to stop any attempts to exceed the scope of the permission or grant.

Other easements

Neighbouring properties may seek rights over your land such as rights of way or rights of drainage or water supply. The scope and extent of that easement will depend on the wording of the deed and so it is important to consider any limitations that you may want to impose for example, a right to take water but only for the use of a single private dwelling.

A landowner may have the right to ask the court to order that use of the right in a way that is outside of the scope of the easement, is not permitted; so for example, if the right is a right of way to access field A that it cannot be used to access field B. If landowners believe that a right is being used in a way that is not permitted or is being used excessively, they should seek legal advice.

Tenants and licensees

Granting tenancies and licenses can be an important source of income for landowners. However it is important to ensure that you are aware of the circumstances in which long-term rights can be acquired by the occupier such as lets to business tenants, telecoms providers and certain types of residential lets. Informal arrangements or using old forms of agreement are not uncommon; this is invariably a false economy and can lead to costly disputes or the inability to recover possession of the land.

For further help or advice, please contact our Head of Agriculture, Johanne Spittle or a member of the Agriculture and Landed Estates Department.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.


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