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Succession to Agricultural Tenancies – Tribunal Clarifies the Law

Tenants of agricultural holdings enjoy some security of tenure, but the rules by which farmers can pass their tenancies on to close family members on their retirement or death have to be met to the letter, as an important tribunal decision showed.

FarmThe tenant of a farm gave notice to his landlord under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 that he intended to retire and that he wished his son to succeed him. In order to establish such a right of succession, the son had to show that, in the last seven years, the farm had been his only or principal source of livelihood throughout a continuous period of not less than five years, or two or more discontinuous periods together amounting to not less than five years (the livelihood condition).

The landlord resisted the son’s succession on the basis that he had to satisfy the livelihood condition not only during the seven-year period expiring with his father’s notice of retirement, but also for the seven years leading up to the determination of his application, a process which had taken about six years. The landlord’s arguments were, however, rejected by the First-tier Tribunal.

In dismissing the landlord’s appeal against that decision, the Upper Tribunal found that, on a true interpretation of the Act, the livelihood condition needed only to be satisfied in relation to the seven-year period ending with the date on which the retirement notice was given. No practical purpose would be served by requiring the son to prove compliance with the livelihood condition for a second seven-year period. Such an interpretation would conflict with the purpose of the Act and encourage reluctant landlords to engage in tactical delay and attrition.



 
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