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Utility deal warning



FARMERS HAVE been warned not to sign anything that comes from utilities companies without taking advice from a qualified professional first.

Giving the keynote address to the South-west Scotland Agricultural Valuers Association at Dumfries House, Cumnock, negotiation expert, James Dick, of James Dick Agriculture – who is also president of SAAVA – noted his experience of some utility firms asking farmers and landowners to sign agreements without recommending that they take legal advice. Mr Dick warned that these agreements were drawn up by the utility’s legal department, and the conditions of the agreement would naturally reflect that interest, rather than the landholder’s,
and suggested that the legislation should be changed so that agreements of this kind would be required to have an accompanying letter, warning that it was a legally’ binding document.

He also emphasised that all valuers and solicitors fees were paid by the utility, and would therefore not affect the level of compensation: “It is one of these rural myths, that if you get an agent involved, his costs will be deducted from the settlement. That is definitely not the case, and the utilities should be only too happy to confirm this.”

Finally, Mr Dick warned farmers to be extremely cautious in dealing with contractors acting on behalf of the utility. If they caused problems when working
outwith their agreed access routes, the utility would be very reluctant to pay compensation – especially if the contractors had asked the farmer beforehand and he had agreed.

He said he had seen scenarios whereby a foreman turned up in a pick-up and asked if they could use a corner of a field to park machinery – the impression the farmer was given was that it would be one or two vehicles and for a few nights, but in fact turned out to be a significant number of machines for the duration of the works.

At the end of the works, no compensation was proposed for the damage. Mr Dick noted that usually farmers were happy to help – but that sometimes this worked against them.