Carter Jonas
Carter Jonas

Land occupation: clarifying the confusion

Land occupation is a topic that is a frequent cause for confusion but, with care, it is straightforward to understand.

Specifically relating to farmland, if your occupation started after 1 September 1995 (and you are not a succession tenant) and you have paid a rent you will be on a Farm Business Tenancy (FBT). This does not provide any security of tenure (beyond any fixed term), rents are normally set at a Market Level and you can negotiate the terms of the agreement. This may, or may not, be by way of a written document.

If you occupy land for part of the year simply, say, for grazing, a hay or silage crop, or to grow a single crop of vegetables then you may be on a short FBT, but more likely you are on a licence. A Licence gives no security of tenure and does not give you exclusive possession of the land. Therefore if the Landowner decides to enter the land they are entitled to do so, even if this impacts on you.

For occupations that started before September 1995 the law is more complicated:

If your occupation of the agricultural holding started before 1 September 1995 then your tenure will be covered by the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA), an Act that pulled together existing legislation and provided security of tenure for the

life of the tenant. Additionally, if your occupation started before 12 July 1984 two successions will be available (subject to qualification). Rents for AHA tenancies are controlled by the Act and are typically less than rents for FBTs.

In general, it does not matter if there is a written agreement or not. It is the circumstances regarding the occupation that count. In addition, under the 1986 Act you can demand a written tenancy, which can sometimes be helpful.

So what should you do if you are unsure about an occupation and how that might impact on a management decision you want to make? Examples might be taking land in hand or developing a farm building. The first port of call should be the agreement, the second should be a one of our offices and our team of Rural Chartered Surveyors who are providing such advice to management and agency clients regularly.

If you are considering or agreeing new occupations with third parties our advice is always to ask us to document what has been agreed particularly as we can help you decide what form of occupation and agreement would be most appropriate.

Download our land occupation document.

Mark Russell


Mark is a rural partner responsible for agency and professional work in East Anglia. Since qualifying in 1998 Mark has undertaken asset management of institutional rural property, advised landowners,...

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