TFA AGM: Landlords challenged to better practice

The Tenant Farmers Association’s National Chairman, Stephen Wyrill has challenged agricultural landlords to better practice in their relationships with farm tenants.

“In the prevailing economics of agriculture there is no justification for farm rent increases on traditional tenancies where rents were last reviewed three years ago. Sadly, this has not prevented a number of landlords’ agents from seeking to use inappropriate tactics to pressurise farm tenants into agreeing increases. This bad practice has included using the outcome of Scottish agricultural tenancy legal cases to argue, wrongly, that FBT rents are comparable with those under the 1986 Act and the old chestnut of attaching a separate value to the farmhouse to add to a predetermined split of any pre-rent surplus arrived at using a budgetary approach to the rent review. Of all the firms of landlords’ agents with whom we have to deal, Strutt and Parker is more often than not in the frame for using these inappropriate devices,” said Mr Wyrill.

“The TFA has spent much time in advising members to stand up against such sharp practice and as a result, we are pleased with the number of situations where landlords have indeed backed off from rent increases and in many cases have served new rent review notices for discussions to take place in the following year,” said Mr Wyrill.

“The TFA is keen to promote good landlord tenant relationships which is why we value our ongoing engagement with the country’s major institutional landlords. Although we have continuing dialogue our annual, formal meetings with each of the institutions have become a fixed point for discussion on a wide range of issues impacting the landlord tenant sector. However, it is disappointing that this year the Crown Estate decided against having our formal gathering, the first time that has happened in at least 15 years. Sadly, there is evidence of a much more hard-nosed approach being taken by the Crown Estate nationally and we have sought to remind it that it is under a statutory duty to take a commercial approach but in keeping with the principles of good estate management. The TFA questions whether this second aspect of its remit is currently being met and will be asking the Treasury Select Committee to open an Inquiry into the management of the Crown Estate to look at this,” said Mr Wyrill.

“The TFA is using the 20th anniversary of Farm Business Tenancies in 2015 to argue that they have been too short for too long. Farming is a long-term endeavour requiring significant capital investment, patience, good soil management and the ability to balance profitable years against the bad. None of this is assisted by the shockingly short lengths of term offered on today’s FBTs. The TFA’s “FBT10+” campaign seeks to argue that average lengths of term should be 10 years or more,” said Mr Wyrill.

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