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Peppercorn Rents

Peppercorn Rents

Are a rarity nowadays. A peppercorns is small and seen as an object of no great value. But historically, it might have been considered of great worth, as it was a means of ensuring some consideration passed between two people to acknowledge some transaction they had mutually agreed, yet had no wish to make an excessive charge. Generosity of spirit employed to endorse a legal process.

A ‘peppercorn’ is a small seed- which, surprise, surprise, if planted should grow into a pepper. Being so small it has little monetary value, but it still has a ‘worth’- it can produce a plant. Therefore in a quite different context, by custom, it has been adopted as a token for ‘consideration’ to show a payment between people particularly if they do not want a large sum.

Nowadays, rents and prices are often high in material terms, to recognise the influence of supply versus demand. Once upon a time, values were measured differently, so the humble peppercorn held its place to endorse a binding agreement with consideration- in both senses of the word.

For instance, an old boundary line between ownership of property might show a small area now inaccessible to the legal owner, and yet it might form a relevant corner to the neighbour. But rather than the ‘rigmarole’ or cost of transferring the title, the parties can agree a Licence, paying a ‘peppercorn’, so the neighbour can occupy and use the land, but the identity of the ownership is safeguarded. Both sides are content with the practical result and the ‘price’ has not embarrassed or marred the good relationship of the neighbours.

John Woolley
Written by

John Woolley

Partner, FAR

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