Disputes Related to Pasture Leases
Landowners commonly lease their properties to ranchers and farmers for agricultural purposes. To avoid leasing disputes, some details should be ironed out before any agreements are made. These involve the expectations of both parties. Understanding the facts before entering into a contract can avoid disappointment, money, and future litigation.
Considerations Before Entering a Lease Agreement
The rancher and the person who holds the lease should communicate their expectations so that they are part of the contract and no one is caught off guard later.
Make Sure it is Clear What Land is Being Leased
Both parties should understand what land and which portions of that land are being leased. Are there fruit trees or crops on the land? The landowner would want to avoid those areas, so noting them in the lease agreement will make it clear to the lessee that those areas are off-limits for their livestock. Something as simple as designating boundaries is a crucial step to avoiding leases.
Disputes Concerning Length of Lease
If the duration of a lease is not in writing, it can cause confusion for both the landowner and the farmer who is leasing the land. The duration for which a property is leased can be for a mere few weeks or a set number of years. Some leases automatically renew. It is vital to agree to the duration before the lease begins.
Unclear Stocking Agreements Can Lead to Problems
The amount of land required to raise a particular animal needs to be discussed and taken into account before a herd is moved to pasture. Clear expectations about what livestock breed will be on the land are essential. For example, raising Charlois cattle requires considerably more land than Black Angus. Since Charlois yearlings weigh nearly 600 pounds more than Angus, they require a larger grazing area.
Questions about species need to be answered before the lease is signed. If a farmer has beautiful but noisy peacocks on a piece of property alongside their other stock, it might be fine for the farmer. But, if the landowner’s home is within shouting distance, they may quickly tire of hearing the peacocks and peahens vocalize. Discussing stock is essential to a positive lease experience.
Pricing Disagreements Lead to Disputes
While agreeing upon a price for leasing farmland doesn’t sound confusing, it often can be. It is possible to decide on a per-acre price. The pricing also can be determined based on how many heads will be raised there. It might vary depending on the mix of animals. Some animals require fewer available resources, so pricing can vary by the animals being stocked.
Another monetary factor to contemplate is how the lessee will pay the landowner. Will they receive a share of the profits once the animals are auctioned? Or will they get a flat amount based on how many goats were on the land? Answers to questions like these are best worked out before the business agreement is underway.
Maintaining and Inspection of Fences: Whose Job Is It?
Fences need to be regularly inspected and often need mending. Maintaining a sturdy boundary is critical so that the animals are contained and are not breaching the designated boundaries. Doing so will eliminate property damage and accidents. This will also hopefully quash potential insurance claims and/or lawsuits.
Establishing who is responsible for the fences can head off future problems. Early communication about the matter will hopefully prevent and avoid fence maintenance disputes.
Breachy Livestock are Nothing but Trouble
Breachy livestock is known for their flight risk and can thus cause many headaches. Once you have an animal that goes on a walkabout, you must figure out how to handle them best. Should they be removed from their current living situation? Or could more appropriate fencing work? The designated process for handling this type of animal is best decided before they start creating headaches for the farmer and the landowner.
Who is responsible for erecting a fence if fencing could resolve the issue? Who is liable for any damages the rogue beast has created? Agreements about handling the livestock well before a problem will stave off future issues.
Property Improvements and Maintenance Problems
Is there a barn on the pasture lease? Or maybe a barn needs to be built there. Both parties should discuss land improvements and who will maintain them before entering into a lease agreement. For instance, if a farmer needs a storage shed, the landowner might agree to let him build it, knowing he will retain ownership after the lease agreement expires. To offset the cost to the farmer, he could offer to maintain it since it will eventually belong solely to him.
Negotiate these details before moving forward with improvements and upgrades to avoid confusion and prevent future disputes related to pasture leases.
Confidentiality Clauses are Important
While it is not always readily apparent why confidentiality is essential in lease agreements, it probably should be. Landowners could potentially lease several plots of land to different ranchers. One rancher could have offered a healthier sum than an earlier, recurring lease might bring. The landowner will likely want to keep what he is charging private. Confidentiality can avoid conflicts. Having that in writing is an excellent protection to have in place.
How are Damages Handled?
This is another issue that isn’t precisely cut and dry. Who is responsible if a breachy cow escapes and tramples the cornfield next door? Well, that could depend on who was responsible for the fences. Or it could go back to how breachy animals were to be managed. Knowing how damages will be handled and who will be responsible for paying for any necessary repairs before they occur is an important way to avoid disputes.
Thinking Ahead Helps Prevent Disputes Related to Pasture Leases
The best way to avoid legal disputes is to consider all of the details upfront. If you need help with a lease agreement or resolving a disagreement in a current pasture lease situation, the experienced cattle lease lawyers at Lovell, Lovell, Isern & Farabough can help.