The Tenant Farmers Association’s Chief Executive, George Dunn, is calling for all landlords agents to act more appropriately in farm rent review negotiations.
“The TFA is all about fostering good landlord and tenant relationships but sadly, time and time again, we see the activities of landlords’ agents driving a wedge between their clients and our members. This is particularly the case when landlords use agents from some of the big national firms of chartered surveyors,” said Mr Dunn.
“In the main, we find that those institutions using in-house agents such as the Duchy of Cornwall or the National Trust and those like the Duchy of Lancaster which keep a tight rein on externally retained agents, are able to have robust but sensible negotiations over rents. In other cases agents appear to be a law unto themselves with little thought about the damage they might be doing to the relationship between their clients and their tenant farmers,” said Mr Dunn.
“On traditional tenancies which use a statutory framework for assessing rents the TFA often finds landlords’ agents using inappropriate tactics to create artificial arguments for rent increases. With the current economic conditions within agriculture, these rents should be coming down. They twist the meaning of statute, case law and valuation practice and hide behind correspondence headed “without prejudice” in a thinly veiled attempt to disguise poor practice,” said Mr Dunn.
A common mal-practice is to assess the level of rent on a traditional tenancy using a mixture of budgetary and component valuation techniques. Typically this involves setting out a budget for the farm to produce a profit before rent which is split between the landlord and the tenant but to which is then added separate values for farmhouses and cottages.
“This mixing of budgetary and component valuation practices is like a dodgy used-car salesman giving you a price for a second hand car and then suggesting that you have to pay extra for the seats. The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers has a great motto – ‘Do what is right come what may’ and I would urge all landlords agents whether members of the CAAV or not to abide by this simple but powerful maxim,” said Mr Dunn.
“Of course we are dealing with businesses but we must not lose sight of the human factor. Farming families are operating day-to-day against an incredibly difficult set of circumstances including volatility in prices, extremes of weather and the pressures of the day-to-day practical and regulatory burdens upon them. They do not need a hard-nosed approach from landlords’ agents to boot,” said Mr Dunn.