Unfortunately Gentlemen Agreements Are Long Gone
Farmers, in particular, are very trusting people and as a result are great people to work with, but there are plenty of examples where this trust is often abused which inevitably leads to conflict. I know many people who stand by a handshake and expect the other person to be honourable, but unfortunately in some cases the world we live in has forgotten that element of trust and it’s often not until this has been broken that people realise evidence is key if matters need to be resolved.
A recent job has reminded me of how important it is, to fully comprehend the nature of a written document and the implications of signing. I have particularly seen this in the renewables market and wind sector in which development companies rush ahead to get land signed up with Landowners under option agreements or wish to negotiate access requirements to the development itself without the Landowner or occupier being fully aware of the implications.
Most companies sell themselves as the best, most credible and backed by a water-tight funder; however, for the majority their models will be based purely on generating income from reaching certain milestones. From my recent experience some companies have very little loyalty or respect for the Landowner or occupier once terms are agreed and the project is underway. One such developer has been negotiating access requirements with Landowners verbally, backed up by a simple letter, which in their minds is legally binding. This is extremely dangerous and the case in mind now involves lawyers and claims of losses.
I would urge all Landowners and occupiers not to provide any rights across their property without fully understanding what they are agreeing to and determining whether any monetary value offered in exchange for granting such right is truly reflective of a) your loss, and b) relative to the development and situation in hand.
I cannot stress enough how important it is that you don’t sign any documentation without having first sought professional advice from people who are experienced in such matters. I must say that there are credible developers out there who do generally take the right approach, but most readers would be alarmed by the manner in which certain developers carry out their business. With the renewables sector continuing to strengthen, and more developers emerging into the market, it is inevitable that certain companies will seek to exploit opportunities at the expense of the Landowner.
If agreements break down, litigation through the courts is not a pleasant procedure, and you’ll find that neither party is ever seen as a “winner”; in fact and it’s sad to say, the only people who benefit are the professionals involved. That’s why it’s so important to understand what you are signing up to in the first instance to avoid confusion or misunderstanding further down the line.