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Farming - Agricultural tenancies

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Agricultural tenancies

There are two main types of agricultural tenancies:

  • agreements in existence prior to 1 September 1995 and subject to the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, these are referred to as 1986 Act tenancies or full agricultural tenancies
  • agreements made after 1 September 1995 and subject to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, these are referred to as Farm Business Tenancies

While you are advised against entering into any tenancy agreement without first taking professional advice, Defra has produced a Guide to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995. This includes a summary of the key provisions of the 1995 Act and a number of frequently asked questions and answers.

Tenancy law

Agricultural tenancy arrangements are mainly governed by the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 or the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995.

A free copy of Defra‘s Guide to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 can be ordered by telephoning Defra’s Innovation and Better Regulation for Farmers  Division (IBRF) on 020 7238 6026. The team can also provide general information about tenancies to both landlords and tenants but cannot give specific help relating to individual queries and recommend contacting a professional adviser.

For answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) relating to the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995, see Defra’s Questions & Answers about the Act.

The FAQs cover:

  • Farm Business Tenancies
  • rent
  • notices to quit
  • assignment and sub-letting
  • tenant compensation on quitting
  • tenant fixtures
  • landlord claims at the end of a tenancy
  • resolution of disputes
  • repair and maintenance obligations

The Regulatory Reform (Agricultural Tenancies) (England and Wales) Order 2006)

Since the introduction of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 there have been significant changes within agriculture and these have been reflected in the above Order which came into operation on 19 October 2006.

New measures included in the Order will:

  • remove  barriers to tenant participation in diversified activities and agri-environment activities by removing the requirement for potential successors to a tenancy to earn their living primarily from agricultural work on the holding
  • prevent unnecessary applications to the Agricultural Land Tribunal by clarifying the provisions on agreed succession
  • ensure landlords and tenants did not forfeit their right to compensation when land was added to the holding and encourage landlords to give consent to tenants’ improvements
  • modernise the arbitration procedures in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986
  • ensure continuity of the rent review cycle where land has been added to a holding and give landlords and tenants greater freedom of contract in relation to rent reviews
  • make it easier for landlords and tenants to restructure holdings without losing the status of a 1986 Act tenancy
  • encourage longer term planning by landlords and tenants by changing the rules in the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 on the notice period for termination of a tenancy.

The Order was based on proposals from The Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) which was re-convened in 2002 and subsequently reported to Government.

Guide to the Order

A free copy of the Guide will be available from 18 December 2006 and can be obtaimed from Defra Publications by telephoning 08459 556000.

Professional advice

There are a number of membership organisations which are able to offer advice and guidance on agricultural tenancies.

Landlords and tenants

Two organisations offer specialist advice to their fee-paying members on tenancy issues:

  • The National Farmers Union (NFU) provides advice and has a legal assistance scheme for paid-up members. The scheme is available on a discretionary basis.
Tenants only

If you are a tenant farmer, you may choose to join the Tenant Farmers Association (TFA). It is a fee-paying membership organisation providing support for tenant members and lobbies on their behalf.

Private advice

To find your nearest private adviser, you can contact the Agricultural Law Association (ALA) by telephoning 01206 383 521 or by visiting the ALA website. The ALA has more than 1,000 rural professional members around the country specialising in agricultural matters including tenancies.

Business Link

Business Link is the national business support advice and information service. Business Link provides practical advice to all businesses and offers access to a wide network of business support organisations.


Certain disputes and applications for succession relating to tenancies of agricultural holdings under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 come under the jurisdiction of the Agricultural Land Tribunal (ALT).

There are seven ALTs in England and each is supported by a Secretary provided by Defra. Find out more about the jurisdiction of the ALTs, and the ALT covering your area.

Please note that ALTs only have limited jurisdiction in relation to tenancies as defined in the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986. See the Guide to ALTs for further details:

There are two ALT Secretaries covering the North and South of England based at Crewe and Bristol respectively. Their contact details are:

ALT Secretary (Bristol)
Government Buildings ALT, (Block 3),
Burghill Road,
Bristol, BS10 6NJ.
Tel: 01179 598 648

ALT Secretary (Crewe)
Defra Buldings
Electra Way
Tel: 01270-754208

Disputes under the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 are resolved through arbitration unless parties have agreed other means of resolving them, such as using a mediator or independent expert.

Agri-environment schemes and diversification

A Code of Practice for Agri-environment Schemes and Diversification Projects within Agricultural Tenancies (PDF 100 KB) has been produced by Defra in consultation with the industry. It sets out a framework to help landlords and tenants agree on terms relating to agri-environment schemes and diversification projects.

NB The Adjudication Scheme described on pages 8 and 9 of the above code closed on 31 December 2006 and is no longer available to landlords or tenants.

The Code of Practice advises:

  • early consultation between the parties at the project planning stage
  • setting a timetable for landlord and tenant to agree terms
  • preparation of detailed proposals
  • proposal issues to be addressed and the need for a written response
  • preparation of a formal written agreement between parties

A free copy of the Code of Practice can be obtained from Defra Publications by telephoning 08459 556000.

Useful links

Further information
  • Defra helpline – 08459 335577
  • Defra's Innovation and Better Regulation for Farmers Division, Agricultural Tenancies, Labour and Wages Team - Tel: 020 7238 5748
  • Agricultural Law Association - 01206 383 521
  • Tenant Farmers Association - 01189 306 130
  • Agricultural Land Tribunal - 01179 598 648
  • Farm Business Advice Service - 08708 707 383

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Page last modified: 23 December 2009
Page published: 1 July 2006