A storyline in the long-running Radio 4 soap The Archers has prompted a solicitor to warn farmers about the dangers of scrutinising contracts before signing on the dotted line.
The plot involves three young farmers dubbed the ‘Rewilding Three’, who want to return an area of land back to its natural uncultivated state.
However, the trio failed to read the small print and signed a contract to rewild the site in Ambridge, leaving them at the mercy of the landowner.
Specialist contract lawyer Amy Peacey of Clarke Willmott said: “Although this is a fictional story, it is an excellent way of illustrating the importance of reading a document before signing on the dotted line and the impact this could have on a business.
“In this case, it means the three have signed away their ability to have full control over their fledgling project and given the landowner the ability to ‘greenwash’ the environmental damage of a planned development elsewhere.”
Ms Peacey said contracts can include onerous obligations which could have ‘potentially catastrophic implications on your business’, if enforced or breached.
She added: “Disputes often arise due to imprecision and ambiguity in contract terms – a contract needs to be clear as to what each party has agreed to do for the other.
“It seems obvious, but if you cannot work out what has been agreed by looking at the words of the contract, it is probably not clear.”
Warning of the devastating implications the fine print can have on businesses, Ms Peacey urged people to take note of where a contract references other documents, and to be sure ‘not to agree to the terms of documents they have not seen’.
“This may be common with suppliers or customers where you are required to abide by their company policies when providing goods and services to them,” she added.