Chatsworth takes hard line on farm tenant repairs

The Tenant Farmers Association has expressed its alarm at the hard line being taken by some rural landlords, including the Chatsworth Estate, in response to a statutory rebalancing of repairing obligations on farms between landlords and tenants.

Many agricultural tenancies, particularly those in place for some time, lack comprehensive clauses allocating repairing obligations between landlords and tenants and rely instead on Regulations to impose responsibilities on both parties for repair, maintenance and replacement of fixed equipment on farms. The Regulations for England have recently been updated for the first time in over 40 years.

“The TFA has welcomed the review of the repairs’ Regulations which has been well overdue. Much has changed in the past 40 years and it was right to reconsider the balance of obligations between landlords and tenants. In some cases the new Regulations has given new obligations to tenants and in others new obligations to landlords and this has been done to properly reflect a fair balance between the parties in the modern context,” said Mr Dunn.

“We fully expected some landlords, mostly private estates advised by national firms of agents, to anticipate the coming into force of the new Regulations at the beginning of this month by serving repairs notices on tenants focusing on those repairing obligations about to pass from tenant to landlord. What we did not expect was for an estate like Chatsworth to take such a draconian line,” said Mr Dunn.

“Invariably on any farm there will be issues of repair and maintenance of fixed equipment on an ongoing basis. Most landlords and tenants will take a pragmatic approach to such matters so long as the wants of repair do not impact upon statutory obligations or the proper management of the holding. However, it is completely inappropriate to try and concertina these repairs into a short timeframe with the threat of additional action for lack of completion which might include the service of a Notice to Quit on the tenant. Such action will only cause the tenant to consider taking reciprocal and defensive action against the landlord which, in turn, will only fill the pockets of agents and solicitors,” said Mr Dunn.

“Any farm tenant that has received a repairs notice from their landlord must take advice about the action they need to take to protect their position. Firstly it will be necessary to have a clear view as to whether the repairs stated are required and to ensure secondly that the correct counter notice procedures are followed where the landlord’s notice is in error or where insufficient time has been given for repairs to be carried out,” said Mr Dunn.

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