A tribunal has ruled that a tenant must leave his 120ha (300-acre) farm near Skipton, North Yorkshire, after issuing a rare Certificate of Bad Husbandry.
The case, Yorke v Barron, was heard by the First Tier Property Chamber Tribunal at Skipton Law Courts in January, with the decision given on 28 February.
It is only one of a handful of times that an application for a Certificate of Bad Husbandry has been successful over the past 30 years.
The landlord applied for the certificate on the grounds that the tenant had failed to maintain a reasonable standard of efficient production by failing to properly mow or graze the permanent pasture on the holding, resulting in extensive weed infestations.
It was also claimed that the tenant had failed to properly stock the holding, protect or preserve harvested crops or carry out necessary repairs or maintenance.
In response, the tenant admitted that in terms of tenant repairs “that not all matters were correct”, but said the landlord’s application was not fair or reasonable and a notice to remedy would have been more appropriate.
The tenant explained that he had been affected by ill-health, the closure of his dairy business due to bovine TB in the herd and the theft of 23 animals while he was ill.
He also claimed that it was his intention to increase stock numbers and move back into dairy farming when it became viable.
After listening to the evidence, the tribunal concluded that the holding was seriously understocked, grass swards were dominated by buttercups and weeds and the conditions that stock on the farm were currently being kept in was “wholly unsatisfactory”.
It described the buildings as being in an “obvious state of substantial disrepair.”
“In summary, what should be either a dairy or beef producing livestock farm is neither,” ruled the tribunal.
“The current farming production is minimal with no discernable farming system, the extensive agistment, horse sales and cottage rental business are no longer mere adjuncts to a productive farm but have become the core activities.”
The plan to return the business to dairy production was “no better than hypothetical”, it added.
George Dunn, chief executive of the Tenant Farmers Association, said it was extremely rare for a Certificate of Bad Husbandry to be issued, but tenants should be aware that tribunals were starting to take a more objective view.
This meant that cases that a tenant might have won five or six years ago, might now go the other way.
“Tenants need to realise that tribunals are getting more objective and they are not as benevolent to the tenant as they appeared to be in the past. Poor practice will not be tolerated and the terms of the tenancy agreement need to be adhered to.”
But Mr Dunn also warned that landlords should not see an application for a Certificate of Bad Husbandry as a route to evict tenants, as tribunals would also look more objectively at the role played by the landlord.
“Both parties need to be seen to be playing their part in making sure the holding remains productive,” he said.
The farmer was given six months from 28 February to vacate the farm.