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Ask The Legal Expert - Can I Succeed My Father As a Tenant Farmer?

View profile for Alice Dearden Cobbett
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My father has been a tenant farmer for 35 years and I recently joined him in the farm business. He’s thinking of retiring and I would like to apply to succeed him as a tenant. The farm is not as profitable as it once was so we have diversified. Will this affect my application?

Your father may have an Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 tenancy, which provides quite a lot of protection to the tenant. This type of tenancy can allow for two successions; three generations of a family will, if they meet specific criteria, hold and run the farm, one after the other.

In order to succeed your father on his retirement or on his death, you will need to satisfy a series of suitability and eligibility tests, after making your application, on time, to the Agricultural Land Tribunal.

The suitability tests deal with your agricultural experience, age, fitness and financial standing.

The eligibility tests are often trickier. Firstly, you must be the right type of close relative of the tenant.

Secondly, you must not have secure rights to another commercial unit of agricultural land. If you do, a Tribunal-appointed surveyor will decide if what you have amounts to a separate commercial unit. If so, your application could be in trouble.

Lastly, you must meet the livelihood test; you will need to show that you have earned your only or main source of livelihood from agricultural work on the farm for at least 5 of the previous 7 years. The percentage of income that must come from on-farm work varies according to the circumstances of your application.

Income derived from other sources can catch you out; if it comes from work that is off-farm it can count against you. If your diversification business provides more income than the farm you could struggle. 

Please remember that you only have three months to make an application to succeed to the tenancy after your father passes away or retires as tenant. If you miss that deadline, you lose the protection and the landlord will be entitled to serve notice to quit and recover possession of the farm.

This is a highly technical area and it is vital that you seek early professional advice so you run your farm business with an eye on your ability to satisfy this and the other tests when the time comes.

For more information please contact Alice on 01267 234022 or email: alice.deardencobbett@jcpsolicitors.co.uk

Welsh is spoken in JCP Solicitors’ Rural Practice Team. The question posed is based upon a hypothetical situation.

For further advice, please contact our specialist Rural Practice Solicitors in:

  • Swansea: 01792 773773
  • Cardiff: 02920 22 5472
  • Carmarthen: 01267 234022
  • Caerphilly: 02920 860628
  • Cowbridge: 01446 771742
  • Haverfordwest: 01437 764723
  • Fishguard: 01348 873671
  • Pontypridd: 01443 408455