Rules for tenancies
GREAT care will be needed in drafting new tenancy agreements from Sept 1, when the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 takes effect.
It will be a new era of flexibility and protection in the let land market, says Jeremy Moody, policy adviser with the Tenant Farmers Association.
"But with freedom comes responsibility," he warns. "And a far wider range of issues will need to be agreed upon by the landlord and tenant than at present. The new legislation is far less prescriptive than the existing rules," he says.
Responsibilities for repairs, for example, is one area which Mr Moody says will be much less clearly defined than at present. "And the common law, which would apply in the absence of any agreement, is fairly sketchy," he adds.
Similarly, where diversification is proposed, he stresses the need to clearly define issues such as the location and exact nature of the enterprises.
"Landlords and tenants need to address any areas of potential dispute in a written agreement, and, if necessary, take professional advice. "Being less reliant on strict time-scales, farm business tenancies will allow the parties to make agreements based on business realities – not on ways to get around the law."
He points to the inadequacies of the current short-term arrangements used to avoid security of tenure. "Gladstone v Bowers lettings will be largely replaced by the new tenancies," he says.
Christopher Jessel, co-author with Mr Moody of a guide* to the new Act, says: "Farmers who, for example, have traditionally let land year after year on a grazing licence may well prefer to create, say, a 20-year grazing tenancy."
Share farming will virtually disappear as an "awkward and risky contrivance", suggests Mr Moody. "Contract farming, however, can meet genuine business needs. But where it was devised merely to get around the law, it too would probably disappear.
*Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 – a practical guide, by Jeremy Moody. Published by Farrar and Co. with farmers weekly. Price £12; Five copies or more, £10. From: Usha Tailor, John Kendall Associates, 132 Ebury St, London SW1W 9QQ. *