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Last edited on: 16:02:2017

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NFU Contract Checking Service

Membership categories: Farmer and Grower
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You may be asked to enter into a Contract which you are unsure about. Do you understand your rights and obligations? Does the contract achieve your aims and objectives? Find out exactly what you are getting yourself into before you sign on the dotted line.

If your answer to any of the above questions is no or you are not sure, then we have a solution for you. The NFU in conjunction with its Legal Panel Firms is pleased to offer a Contract Checking Service to all farmer and grower members. The firms can check the Contract for you and advise on what it means and whether or not it meets your requirements and needs.

You can get a professional view of your contract from a Solicitor from as little as £275 + VAT. This will be money well spent when you balance that cost against what the contract is going to be worth to your business.

Why is the Contract Checking Service necessary for farmers and growers?

The Contract Checking Service will be of great benefit to members as it helps them to understand what they are getting themselves into. The NFU and its Legal Assistance Scheme have been involved in a number of costly and stressful contractual disputes affecting members’ businesses, some of which could have been avoided if members had taken professional advice before signing the contracts.

The NFU has had various requests from members for their contracts to be checked by NFU staff which caused us to review the position.  It is clear that taking professional advice on contractual arrangements at an early stage helps to reduce potential pitfalls and costly disputes in the future for our members.

Following discussions internally and with the NFU Legal Panel Firms, it was agreed that introducing a new ‘Contract Checking Service’ would be the best solution to address some of the contractual disputes that arise from farming and growing businesses.

The NFU Legal Panel Firms are able to undertake the work for NFU Farmer & Grower members to ensure you understand your rights and obligations and are satisfied that your aims and objectives are met before signing the contracts.

How does the Service work?

The service is split into three Stages – Stage 1, 2 and 3.

Stage 1 – This will be an initial discussion with an NFU Specialist Adviser at NFU CallFirst and a referral to the appropriate panel firm if you want them to check the contract for you.

Stage 2 – This entails the panel firm contacting you within two working days from the date of the referral to discuss your requirements.  Following a brief conversation with you and having had sight of the contract to ascertain your requirements and what you are trying to achieve in the contract, they will produce a simple report for you.

Stage 3 – The firm will consider the contract in more detail and assist you in renegotiating specific terms and/or advise in further detail what the contract means for your business.

How is the Service accessed?

STAGE 1

  • You should contact NFU CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 and speak to a Specialist Adviser when you have a contract that you are planning to enter into.   Get in touch as early on as you can; don’t leave contacting us until the last minute.
  • The Specialist Adviser will have an initial discussion with you and can make a referral to one of the NFU’s Legal Panel Firms.  You will be referred to the relevant panel firm in your area, who will contact you within 48 hours to discuss your contract.
  • Your first discussion with the panel firm will be free of charge, but if you decide to instruct the panel firm to undertake a review of your contract, any fees will be agreed before the work starts for stages 2 and 3.

STAGE 2

  • Following a referral, the firm will contact you to discuss your requirements and objectives, as well as request a copy of the contract from you.
  • They will review the contract and contact you with a fixed quote for the service based on its complexity, value and in some cases, its length.  For Stage 2, the fee must be agreed after the solicitor has had sight of the contract and following the initial discussion.
  • The firm will provide a dedicated/named solicitor who will be responsible for the contract checking service.

This report includes the following to assist you in making the right decision as to whether or not to sign the contract:

Checking the contract to highlight your key rights and obligations as well as identify clauses that might need further clarification, amendments or renegotiation to make the contract fairer for you;

Highlighting any poorly worded or vague terms and explaining “legalistic language” to ensure you understand your key rights and obligations under the contract;

  • The firm will then supply you with a report of its findings  and any issues identified that need further clarification or negotiation, with recommendations on how best to address them (if applicable), that might lead on to Stage 3 as set out below.
  • Upon receipt of the report, if you are able to proceed with their recommendations on your own, you can.  Alternatively, if you believe you need their professional advice or assistance to re-negotiate or clarify some of the terms with the other party, you will agree with the firm to proceed to Stage 3 below.

STAGE 3

  • If you want the firm to carry out any further work, (such as renegotiating amendments to the contract terms on your behalf), this will be charged for separately.
  • The firm will discuss the report and recommendations produced at Stage 2 with you including how to achieve your objectives and resolve any concerns.
  • The firm will offer you a further quote for doing this additional work– it is up to you whether or not you take up this offer, or carry on alone.
  • If you agree to instruct the firm, they will liaise with you and the other party to re-negotiate a reasonable contract to achieve your aims and objectives.

What does it cost?

Stage 1 is free of charge as you speak to an NFU Specialist Adviser.

For the report at Stage 2 above, the NFU has negotiated preferential rates for Farmer & Grower members that “start from as little as £275.00 plus VAT depending on the complexity and value of the contract”. The firm will agree a fixed fee with you for carrying out all Stage 2 work.

For Stage 3 above, the charge will either be at the firms’ standard hourly rates (with a 12.5% discount applied), or a fixed fee can be agreed directly with the firm at the outset before any work is done.

What type of Contract is covered by this Contract Checking Service?

The Service is designed to provide you with a report on the contract you are being asked to enter into (for example Sale of Goods or Services Contracts, Tenancy Agreements, Grazing Agreements, etc).

Some contracts (for example, Foreign distribution agreements, Option Agreements, Sale of Large Estates etc) may, due to their complexity, value or length, fall outside the remit of Stage 2 of the Service.  If this is the case, the panel firm will advise you of this after you supply a copy of the contract for them to give you a quote for a Stage 3 service.

You can still engage their services to help you with it, but they would then quote separately for doing so outside the Contract Checking Service offered at Stage 2.

Why does the NFU have a panel of approved law firms and why should you use them?

The NFU Legal Panel Firms have been carefully selected for their strength and depth of expertise in farming and growing matters, giving farmers and growers reassurance, as well as providing assistance in other non-farming legal areas such as tax planning, business structures, wills, trusts, diversification matters, conveyancing and many more.

Our Legal Panel Firms’ high standards are continually maintained. Each and every one complies with Solicitors Regulation Authority requirements, as well as being regularly monitored and reviewed.

The NFU Legal Panel also offers you great savings. Each one of our Legal Panel Firms offers our NFU farmer & grower members hourly rate savings of up to 12.5% on agricultural and horticultural legal services and advice that affect your farming or growing business, as well as fixed fees for specific services such as the Contract Checking Service.

:: Don’t sign contracts without understanding your rights and obligations.  The above service could reduce the stress and high legal costs associated with contractual disputes that could be avoided if you seek professional advice before signing the contract.


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