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Terminating Agricultural Tenancies

Feb 15th, 2016

“Old-style” agricultural tenancies under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 continue to provide the Courts with work. Traditionally, most of the issues raised concern the ability to succeed to a tenancy. Every now and then, a different problem presents itself.

A rarely-used means of terminating a tenancy is for the Landlord to obtain a certificate that the Tenant is not farming the holding in accordance with statutory rules of good husbandry. Once obtained, the Landlord can then serve an incontestable Notice to Quit. One of the reasons that this facility is rarely used is that the judgment as to the quality of husbandry is so subjective and often difficult to prove.

A case decided in the latter part of last year in the First-Tier Tribunal Property Chamber addressed exactly these issues. The holding in question was near Keighley in Yorkshire and inspections had revealed over-grazing and poaching of land, collapsed stone walls, missing gates and the dereliction of farm buildings.

Naturally, the members of the Tribunal inspected the Holding at the time of the hearing. Some of the defects had been rectified but many had not. There was also evidence of past failings in relation to the welfare of livestock but the Tribunal found the cattle to be in reasonable condition, despite some missing ear tags.

The Tribunal accepted that the unit had to be considered as a whole, and not merely parts of it, that the conditions are not required to have been breached across the whole unit. In this particular instance the Tribunal found that the standard of farm maintenance in general had been “wholly inadequate” and this led to the grant of the required certificate. Clearly this is catastrophic for the Tenant as it will inevitably lead to a successful Notice to Quit. The moral for all tenant farmers is clear; rules of good husbandry are there to be followed!

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