Agricultural tenant workers – Are they there for life?

Offering accommodation to workers on your farm can be a convenient arrangement. However, the law is stacked in their favour and they could possibly live on your property indefinitely. Nevertheless, there are certain legal options for regaining possession.

Is your tenant an agricultural worker?

In order to ascertain what laws protect your tenant, you must determine whether they qualify as an agricultural worker. An agricultural worker is a serving farm worker. However, the definition of agricultural worker can extend to a retired farm worker or a farm worker who was forced to give up work, a deceased farm worker’s widow or widower, or even a family member who was living with the farm worker on the Property when the farm worker died.

A serving farm worker must be working on the Property under a contract of employment. However, working under a contract of employment is not simply enough. The worker must prove to have worked in agriculture for at least 35 hours per week, for 91 of the last 104 weeks prior to when the agricultural tenancy began. They must also be living in accommodation provided by their employer.

Which laws apply?

Determining which laws apply to their tenancy will depend on when the tenancy began.

Tenancies beginning before 15 January 1989 will be protected by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and classed as a “Protected Tenancy”. This Act provides tenants with substantial protections. Under the 1976 Act, tenants will have their rent capped and have the right to continue their tenancy even after their employment ends. The Land owner must arrange alternative accommodation, or even obtain a court order to evict the tenant.

Tenancies beginning after 15 January 1989 will be protected by the Housing Act 1988 and classed as an “Assured Agricultural Occupancy”. In comparison to the Protected Tenancy, they share much of the same rights, but rent can be reviewed periodically under an Assured Agricultural Occupancy. This allows rent to more accurately reflect the current market.

Alternative options

Regaining possession of your property can be made easier by using a “Service Occupancy”. A Service Occupancy provides the worker with a personal licence to reside at the property while they perform their work duties at the farm. When their employment ends at the farm, so does their Service Occupancy, so they will legally have to move out.

Alternatively, another easier route to regaining possession is by giving your agricultural tenant worker a Form 9 Notice. This notice will state that they are living on the property under an “Assured Shorthold Tenancy (AST)” and will therefore not be able to rely on any statutory protection. An AST must be granted to the worker before their tenancy begins, and the rent must be above a certain amount.

If you need any further information, please contact Frank Smith & Co Solicitors on 01242 801748.

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