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Farmer’s Daughter Pays Price for Delay in Seeking Legal Advice

cowsHaving an uncomplaining nature is admirable but, if you are concerned that you have suffered a wrong, or are in danger of doing so, any delay in seeking legal advice can have grave consequences. That was certainly so in one case in which a farmer’s daughter found herself facing eviction from the family’s 100-acre holding.

The dairy farm, which was owned by the woman’s 68-year old father, had suffered a series of blows, not least a reduction in milk yields and the death of 100 cows due to soil contamination. The land was mortgaged in order to secure the farm’s debts and the lender was ultimately granted a possession order on the basis that it was owed over £670,000.

Over a period of more than four years, execution of the order was stayed on various grounds. Shortly before it was due to be finally enforced, the daughter claimed for the first time that she had an equitable interest in the land. She argued that she had ploughed her own money into attempts to save the farm and had worked hard on the land for years.

It was also submitted that her father had promised her that the land would one day be hers and that her interest overrode that of the lender because she was not a party to the mortgage and was in actual occupation of the farm. Her arguments succeeded before a judge and, subject to certain conditions, she was joined as a party to the possession proceedings and a further stay of execution was granted.

In upholding the lender’s challenge to that ruling, the Court of Appeal found that the daughter was guilty of inordinate and unexplained delay in asserting an interest in the land. The judge had also applied the wrong test when assessing the strength of her claim. Exercising its own discretion, the Court removed the stay.

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