The Agriculture Bill: Succession Tenancies

The new Agriculture Bill seeks to implement various changes to the procedure for succession under Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies.

Currently a successor can take over an AHA tenancy when the present tenant serves a retirement notice or when he dies. A tenant cannot serve a retirement notice before he is 65, unless he is mentally or physically incapable of farming the holding any more.

The successor must then prove both his eligibility and suitability. To prove his eligibility he must be a close relative (spouse, child, sibling), must have taken his principal source of livelihood from the agricultural work of the farm for five out of the last seven years, and not be farming another commercial unit. Simple in theory, but not always in practice!

When trying to prove his suitability, factors such as his age, health, financial position, agricultural qualifications, and practical farming experience will be taken into account.

The changes within the Ag Bill are quite comprehensive and are aimed at making it easier to hand the farm down to an industrious and capable successor. Some of the key points are:

  • The proposed new rules will allow a retirement notice to be served at any age.
  • The close relative would be expanded to allow grandchildren/ nephews/nieces to apply.
  • Applicants who might have spent some time in full time higher or further education would be eligible to apply
  • The commercial unit test would be abolished completely so that those who might have or be involved in another Holding or farming enterprise are not penalised for their success and are still eligible to apply.
  • Finally, the suitability test will be expanded to include experience and skills relating to business management as well as agriculture.

If your tenancy began before 12 July 1984, whether it is written down or not, it may well be a succession tenancy , which can be passed down to younger generations. Do you know the status of your tenancy and the rights and rules attached to it?

If not, why not get in touch and let us work things through with you. Contact Lauren Dixon at our Rural Law Practice office.

Published 11 September 2020

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