Assured Agricultural Occupancies

For some time now landlords dealing with tenancies and agricultural workers have been used to dealing with different categories of tenancies.  Traditionally, accommodation has been offered to farm workers as part of their contracts of employment for the farmer and their families at a low or no rent.

Legislation was introduced in the 1970s and 1988, the aim of which was to preserve the farm workers security of occupation in their homes, even when their employment was terminated.  These were known as “tied tenancies”.

Once a farm worker’s contractual agreement comes to an end, as long as it complies with the agricultural worker conditions, a statutory protected tenancy arises, affording the worker and their family security and, as long as the worker continues to occupy the cottage as their residence, or their principal home, their occupation may only be terminated by agreement with the tenant surrendering their tenancy, or with a possession order from the court.  Possession orders may be granted in certain circumstances.

In the event the landlord requires the property for a new employee, they will need to try and provide alternative accommodation.  If none is available they can apply to the local authority for the worker to be re-housed.

The date on which the occupation commenced is important and it is this date, rather than the date when the employment started, which needs to be considered.  Any tied tenancy entered into before 15 January 1989 will be governed by the 1976 and 1977 Rent Acts.  After 15 January 1989 (subject to a few exceptions) it will be governed by the Housing Act 1988.

If the occupier falls within the definition of “a qualifying worker”, there is a “relevant licence or tenancy” and the occupier has “exclusive occupation”; once the arrangement comes to an end the occupation will become a statutory periodic tenancy.  The rent may be increased (based on the rateable value of the cottage), by agreement or by notice and on the death of the tenant there may be succession rights afforded to the tenant’s spouse, civil partner or another member of the family.  In some circumstance, there can be two successions.

After 1989, the protection for agricultural workers changed, although remained very similar.  However, if a tenancy was granted to an agricultural worker, and a Form 9 notice was served prior to the grant of the tenancy, then it is possible the tenancy could be treated as an assured shorthold tenancy (but only if the tenancy reserved a rent over the minimum threshold).  Failure to serve the Form 9 notice could mean the tenancy would be treated as an assured agricultural occupancy, with full protection, with a statutory periodic tenancy arising at the end of the tenancy.

A landlord of an agricultural worker who is a tenant of a farm themselves does need to think carefully prior to sub-letting any farm cottage to ensure they are not in breach of the terms of their tenancy.

As everyone is aware changes are afoot later this year. However, assured agricultural occupancies will not be disappearing and therefore landlords will still need to ensure they consider the type of tenancy being granted.

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