Lettings of ‘tied’ cottages to a farm worker as one of the terms of that worker’s contract of employment are not regulated by either the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA 1986) or the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995 (ATA 1995) and can result in a number of issues for their landlords.
The usual arrangement is that the letting if is entered into before 15 January 1989 it will be regulated by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 (the R(A)A 1976) or in the case of a tenancy entered into on or after 15 January 1989 it will be an ‘assured agricultural occupancy’ regulated by the Housing Act 1988 (HA 1988).
Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976
The R(A)A 1976 applies with certain exceptions, to agreements for the occupation of a tied cottage which were entered into on or after 1 January 1977. A farm worker is protected by the R(A)A 1976 if he occupies a dwelling as a separate dwelling with exclusive occupation as part of his employment in agriculture and has worked whole-time in agriculture for 91 out of the preceding 104 weeks. R(A)A 1976, s 1.
The farm worker’s occupation is protected irrespective of whether it has been enjoyed under a licence or tenancy—a licence is treated as a tenancy if it would have been a tenancy but for the fact that no rent, or only a low rent (in the sense described above), is payable. The security of tenure is broadly similar to that which is enjoyed by protected tenants under the Rent Act 1977. As a result, the farm worker:
• enjoys protection if he remains in occupation once his contractual right of occupation has come to an end, in which event his status shifts from that of ‘protected occupier’ to ‘statutory tenant’ under the R(A)A 1976
• has a right of occupation to which a member of his family may succeed in the event of the worker’s death
• cannot be evicted without a possession order having first been obtained on one of either the discretionary or mandatory grounds set out in schedule 4 to the R(A)A 1976
• has the benefit of section 5 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977 (PEA 1977), which entitles the court to suspend the operation of a possession order on terms which are more generous than in the case of other tenants PEA 1977, s 5
The landlord may apply to the local housing authority for the farm worker to be re-housed if the landlord is unable to supply suitable alternative accommodation for him. The authority is required to ‘use its best endeavours’ to re-house him.
Housing Act 1988
The ‘assured agricultural occupancy’ broadly corresponds to the status enjoyed by a farm worker as a protected occupier or statutory tenant under the R(A)A 1976.
A farm worker has the benefit of an assured agricultural occupancy if he occupies under a tenancy, and:
• it is not an assured shorthold tenancy
• it is a tenancy which fails to qualify as an assured tenancy because either it is at a low rent or because it the dwelling is comprised in an agricultural holding within the meaning of Part 1 of Schedule 1 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA 1986)
• he satisfies the ‘agricultural worker condition’
A farm worker has the benefit of an agricultural occupancy if he occupies under a licence where:
• he enjoys exclusive occupation of the dwelling house as a separate dwelling, and
• if his occupation were under a tenancy it would meet the criteria set out above
Where a tenant has the benefit of an assured agricultural occupancy the statutory periodic tenancy which arises on the expiry of the assured agricultural occupancy remains an assured agricultural occupancy for as long as the agricultural worker condition is fulfilled in relation to the dwelling house. Possession can only be recovered:
• if notice in Form 4 of the Assured Tenancies and Agricultural Occupancies (Forms) Regulations 1988 was served prior to the commencement of possession proceedings, and
• on the grounds which apply in the case of an ‘ordinary’ assured tenancy, except that possession may not be recovered on the ground that the farm worker’s employment has ceased
Statutory protection is not lost if the farm worker resigns and any provision to the contrary in the tenancy agreement is of no effect.
The landlord may apply to the local housing authority for the farm worker to be rehoused by it if the landlord is unable to supply suitable alternative accommodation for him. The authority is required to ‘use [its] best endeavours’ to rehouse him.
If you are experiencing problems with obtaining vacant possession of ‘tied’ accommodation please contact Joe Brightman, or our team of experienced Rural and Agricultural Solicitors, for more advice.
This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific legal advice.