Opinion: Why landlord-tenant relationships need to be worked at

It could be argued that the current Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) tenancy model is outdated and insufficient in addressing the challenges posed by the post-Brexit era.

With the shift towards environmental schemes and the concept of natural capital, there is a need to reimagine the landlord-tenant relationship as a genuine partnership that promotes mutual benefits and sustainability.

See also:  Nine recommendations to help improve landlord-tenant relations

About the author

Alistair Paul is head of rural asset management for the eastern regions at Knight Frank. Here he shares his top tips for fostering strong working relationships between landlords and tenants.

Tenants should be encouraged, if not obliged, to adopt regenerative and sustainable farming practices, which can lead to enhanced profitability, environmental conservation and shared income streams.

While some tenants are supportive, others remain resistant to change. 

This, then, shines a light on why it is so crucial to have open, constructive dialogue between landlords and tenants.

Partnership matters and it’s important to understand that meaningful connections can only be established through personal interactions.

Unfortunately, many landlord-tenant relationships suffer from poor communication and mistrust, which has perpetuated across generations.

Quality time

Establishing a strong relationship will require spending quality time, to really get to know one another.

The issue with many AHA relationships is that they primarily rely on third parties, such as land agents, to handle negotiations.

Landlords often claim they lack the time, but what they truly mean is that they don’t prioritise building such connections, which is unfortunate.

I strongly believe in holding “no agenda” meetings between landlords and tenants, and I extend the same advice to agents as well.

In my view, respect serves as the building block of any relationship, be it personal or professional.

Respect enables us to value each other’s perspectives, opinions and needs, as well as fostering empathy, enabling us to genuinely listen to and consider different viewpoints.

Without mutual respect, it becomes exceedingly challenging to establish trust, which is an essential component in achieving successful outcomes, such as closing a deal.


Attitudes and behaviours tend to be passed down from one generation to the next, perpetuating a cycle of mistrust and ineffective communication.

I strongly recommend reaching a stage where challenging discussions can occur within a non-adversarial and non-judgmental environment.

By doing so, we open the possibility of discovering significant areas of common ground that were previously overlooked.

Language is important too. I am continually surprised that I have never encountered anyone else who finds the terms “landlord” and “tenant” peculiar and outdated in our modern era.

I believe it is high time for us to re-evaluate our language and embrace terminology that reflects a more equitable and collaborative dynamic.

I also sometimes wonder whether the perspective of large institutional clients, some of whom prioritise rent over relationships, is shaped internally or is influenced by decades of advice from traditional agents. I fear it is the latter.

Land agents are usually trained by their predecessors, which often leads to long-standing beliefs that can persist for generations, similar to subconscious biases such as racism and sexism.

It is time to encourage outside interventions. Without speaking openly, this will not change.

Another common problem is one of alignment. Often, when I ask why we couldn’t get a negotiation over the line, the answer is that “the parties failed to align themselves”.

Aligning objectives between landlords and tenants is crucial as it establishes a solid framework for effective communication.

From there, it is possible to build greater trust, more collaboration and long-term stability in exchange for financial risk-sharing or environmental stewardship, from which both parties can benefit.

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