Proposed changes to agricultural tenancy law in England and Wales will provide opportunities for landowners and tenants to work together to increase productivity, says FBC Manby Bowdler’s Steven Corfield.
The Government is currently looking to update legislation for the first time in 25 years and a consultation on options for reform closed earlier this month.
The consultation provided tenant farmers, agricultural landlords and other professionals including agricultural valuers and surveyors with the opportunity to provide their views on proposals.
Mr Corfield, the firm’s Principal Development Consultant for Agricultural Business, said the aim of the reform was to remove barriers to productivity improvements.
He said: “If passed by ministers the proposals will see various changes to current agricultural tenancy laws.
“The key objective is to try and support improved productivity, facilitate change to encourage next generation farmers and enable investment in farm infrastructure and the environment.
“It’s the first time in 25 years that the Government has looked to update and reform such legislation so it is important and a big deal for the farming sector.
“Whilst any changes are likely to be seen as controversial, they will provide a great deal of opportunities for landlords and tenants alike particularly, at a time when food security and care of the environment is becoming increasingly important on the Government’s agenda.”
The key proposals are:
• A new provision for Assignable Agricultural Holding Act (AHA) tenancies – an opportunity for older tenants without a successor to retire and assign tenancy to a third party for payment.
• Changing AHA succession rights – this would allow tenants to retire earlier than the current minimum age of 65 to support succession planning.
• Changing AHA succession eligibility – applying a more up to date commercial test to allow for succession rights to be extended to wider relatives.
• Extending succession rights to AHA tenancies – this explores the possibility of extending succession eligibility to include co-habiting partners, the children of co-habiting partners, nieces, nephews and possibly grandchildren.
• Introduction of short notices to quit for Farm Business Tenancies (FBT) over 10 years – the aim of which is to encourage landlords to grant longer tenancies.
Ministers are currently analysing feedback from the consultation and a summary analysis of responses is expected to be published in the Autumn.
If you have any questions about your rights as an agricultural landlord or tenant and want to know more about how these reforms may impact on your property, contact Mr Corfield on the details below.