Thinking about hiring out your land?
Fields are popular venues for a wide range of events and activities and uses range from corporate events and film locations through to weddings, music concerts and festivals. For the owners of land, hire of all, or part of, the property as an event venue can be a valuable source of income. Even if this is not carried out on a wholly commercial scale, the income generated can represent a useful contribution to maintenance and running costs of the land.
A business approach is required to maximise the return on investment from hiring out your land, as well as ensuring your asset is fully protected. There are a number of legal issues to consider, and often the scale of the activity, or the sums involved, make a formal written contract the most appropriate option.
Follow our top tips to protect your asset:
- Keep it confidential – Often, even before a contract for use of land is entered into, confidentiality is an issue – Corporate hire also includes event professionals securing land for high profile clients. The landowner may therefore be asked to sign confidentiality agreements prior to contract negotiations and this may be a necessary precursor to any hiring. Most landowners are happy to enter into such agreements. Such undertakings are likely to extend to your staff, so making them aware of the importance of compliance is vital.
- Structure fees – How will payment be structured? You will need to make provisions for what will happen in the event of a cancellation, particularly if yours is a popular venue. Structure payments so that the hirer has paid in advance and include in the contract an obligation to pay the full fee if the event is cancelled so late that there is no opportunity to obtain a replacement hire. It may make sense to require hirers to obtain event cancellation insurance so that they are able to pay you even if they cancel their event (and indeed, it is probably sensible for them to do so anyway).
- Be specific – The contract should specify exactly how much of the land the hirer will have access to – which areas of grounds – and perhaps more importantly where they may not go. The contract should also spell out which routes may be used to access the property. Additionally, if large numbers of people are expected, access arrangements from the main road should be discussed beforehand with the police.
- Calculate the risk – Inevitably, anyone making land available for use as a business needs to consider the health & safety of those using it, and indeed that of their own employees. Risk assessments should be carried out and appropriate steps should be taken to minimise any potential dangers. The landowner should, so far as possible, use the contract to shift the risk of holding the event on to the hirer. The hirer should be obliged to carry out the necessary risk assessment and to insure against risks to those attending or working at the event. Landowners are well advised to ask to see copies of the hirer’s insurance policies.
- Get the licensing right – If you are hiring out your property for use as a place of public entertainment, you must hold a public entertainment licence. Likewise, if you or the hirer proposes to sell alcohol at the event, an alcohol licence may be required. As landowner you may well want to shift the responsibility for obtaining these licences to the hirer, but you should ensure that they obtain them and exhibit them to you on request. You should also impose on the hirer an obligation to comply with the licences – you do not want the property to gain a bad reputation, thus rending it more difficult to obtain licences for it on future occasions and limiting its marketability.
- Think ahead – The use to which the land may be put should be specified. If the event is a wedding, spell out that use is for a wedding only. If any major changes are going to be required to the grounds, for example for a music festival, ensure that the contract covers returning layouts to their original states.
- Calculate the costs – VAT. If you are providing services it may be that VAT becomes a consideration.
As with all commercial relationships, if the ground rules are clearly understood at the outset there is unlikely to be any need to actually revert to the contract – everybody understands their responsibilities. Clarifying the ground rules helps to ensure that events run smoothly, memories remain unsullied by bad feelings, and that your venue’s reputation and popularity only grow and grow. And, if it all does go wrong, you may be very glad indeed to have gotten things in writing.
Is your land suitable for hire?
Before submitting your land, it may be worth considering these points:
- Size of the land, ideally over 3 acres.
- Road access, it must be suitable for cars and larger vehicles.
- Fields should be relatively flat, even and unlikely to flood.
- If the field is being hired for an event, it should be free of animals and any waste.