New landlord-tenant code of practice delights farm leaders

A new code of practice to regulate the conduct of landlord-tenant relationships is a “major step forward” for the tenant farming sector in England, say farm leaders.

The new code of practice (PDF) is another output from the Farm Tenancy Forum (FTF), established in the wake of the Rock Review report from the Tenancy Working Group, and is seen as a “huge success” for ongoing lobbying by the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) and others.

Both the Rock Review and a more recent survey conducted by the TFA highlighted widespread evidence of poor conduct, particularly by landlords’ agents.

See also: What would a tenant farming commissioner offer the sector?

The TFA found that 30% of respondents to its survey felt bullied or harassed by their landlords, and 37% felt bullied or harassed by their landlords’ agents.

It found that 70% did not even have regular meetings with their landlords.

The TFA said 91% of respondents thought the sector would benefit from a code of practice.

Tenants ‘mistreated’

TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “For too long tenants have felt marginalised and mistreated, and this Code of Practice is a major step forward for the sector.

“Whilst I am not naive enough to think that, in itself, the code of practice will resolve all the current problems within the sector, it will provide an important touch point for people to call out and deal with poor practice.”

The new code is designed to foster and encourage clarity, communication and collaboration in the tenanted sector.

It provides guidance on the standards of behaviour expected from landlords and tenants, as well as those providing professional advice in connection to farm tenancy matters.

The TFA says it would like to see the new code referred to in tenancy agreements, letters of instruction and other important agreements.

The Central Association for Agricultural Valuers (CAAV) worked with members of the FTF to help deliver the new code.

Jeremy Moody, CAAV secretary and adviser, said: “The CAAV has endorsed the use of this Code of Practice by our members and all the parties to a tenancy agreement.

“In promoting the code and its use by all parties, the CAAV’s model Farm Business Tenancies for England now include a reference to the code so that, as part of our ‘no surprises’ approach, it is there as a guide for the parties to a tenancy agreement to behave with fairness and respect.”  

Next steps

Defra secretary Steve Barclay said the new code would ensure the tenanted sector “continues to thrive by promoting positive relationships between tenants and landlords”.

The government says that as part of its response to the Rock Review, more than a third of its commitments have already been completed, and actions are under way in most areas.

There is confidence among insiders that the government intends to establish a tenant farming commissioner, in line with a recommendation from the Rock Review.

Mr Barclay recently told the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Efra) select committee that there would be an announcement on the issue at the government’s Farm To Fork summit in May.

Mr Dunn said: “It seems pretty unlikely that the secretary of state and the prime minister would want to use the summit as a platform to say the government wasn’t going to do something.

“The mood music appears to be building to something positive. The question will be what remit and what status a new commissioner will have – will it be statutory or non-statutory and will it have the full terms of reference as proposed by the Rock Review.”