Farming News - Court ruling on AHA tenancy interpretation is significant

Court ruling on AHA tenancy interpretation is significant

21 Jul 2020
Frontdesk / Finance

A ruling in the Court of Appeal Rees v. Earl of Plymouth is welcome news for landowners but serves as a warning for the drafting of future farm tenancy agreements and the interpretation of existing agreements warns Law firm Royds Withy King.

This case involved a 240-acre farm in South Wales which has been farmed by the same tenant family since the 1960’s under two separate Agricultural Holdings Act Tenancies. The landowner wished to develop part of the site for housing and obtained outline planning permission. He subsequently fell out with the tenant farmer when attempting to enter the farm to carry out wildlife and habitat surveys, a requirement of the planning permission granted. The surveys included digging boreholes and leaving bat detectors on the land and the tenant claimed the rights of entry reserved for the landowner in the AHA tenancies did not permit entry for this purpose.

Whilst the courts agreed with the tenant that the landlord could not dig boreholes or carry out significant works as part of any survey, the Court of Appeal judgement held that leaving bat detectors on the land was permitted.

Vicky Hernandez, a Partner in the Rural team at Royds Withy King comments. “This ruling is significant, effectively saying that each case needs to be considered individually on its own merits. Whilst the starting point is the tenant’s right to exclusive possession, in this case there wasn’t substantial or serious interference or material disturbance or damage resulting from the bat boxes or surveyors’ reference pins being left on the land and the two AHA tenancies had been correctly interpreted.”

“Future drafting of AHA tenancy agreements must expressly provide for landlords wishing to carry out surveys or work and the likely interference and compensation provision. Any landlords hoping to access land in a similar way would be well advised to check the terms of the tenancy agreement and to reach agreement with the tenant first to avoid a similar issue.”