Lady Day rent rises not to be believed – TFA
INITIAL Lady Day rent review figures released by a leading land agent have been greeted with disbelief and branded valueless by the Tenant Farmers Association.
Rather than standing still or coming down, as the TFA is urging, rents on the first 57 holdings reviewed by Strutt & Parker rose by an average 13.5%, says the companys Ralph Crathorne.
Arable rents climbed over 17% to £59.57/acre. Rents on mixed farms in less favoured areas rose 12.7% to £44.25/acre.
The agreements are higher than some had forecast, but are the result of "cautionary and studied" negotiations, Mr Crathorne maintains.
But Reg Haydon, TFA chairman, suspects the farmers involved were poor negotiators, and derides the results as meaningless and selective. "Of the thousands of rents being reviewed, 57 cases is not a great proportion. When farm incomes are in free-fall, who in their right mind would settle so soon?"
Some land agents attempt to pick off the weakest, unrepresented tenants, says Mr Haydon. "Tenants should appoint an arbitrator to give themselves an extra 6-8 weeks. Get yourself professionally represented – be sure to use a TFA valuer."
Mr Crathorne defends the figures. "It rather cheapens the process if people think there is an ulterior motive." He expects the level to be maintained as other results come through.
David Knowles of chartered surveyor Carver Knowles does not. "I would be absolutely amazed if the average increase stays at 13.5%. I am expecting 0-5%. And if I came across an arable farmer paying £55-58, I would look for a minor reduction.
Oliver Harwood of the CLA says averages must be treated with caution. "It could be that these were obvious ones for an increase. But 13.5% is just a little over inflation since these rents were last reviewed."
In Cambs, farmer Greg Bliss has yet to reach agreement with his landlord, the Crown Estate. "Three years ago the review took a couple of meetings and phone calls; this time, it is more protracted. But I am not prepared to accept much of an increase with wheat at £67/t."
Kent farmer Tim Piper has negotiated rent down by a fifth on 20 acres of short-term grazing let. "Our arable rent does not come up for review until next year. When it does, Ill look for a 30% decrease." *