I have received a few enquiries from CLA members lately regarding farm business tenancies (FBTs) that are due to end. This might be in light of Michaelmas approaching and so some leases are soon to end, or people are considering serving notice ahead of this date.
Either way, as a number of similar conversations have taken place, I thought it useful to share some general points for consideration with anyone who might be considering serving notice, or who has a tenant that will be leaving in the near future.
Firstly, if you want to serve notice on your tenant, then you can serve them with between 12 and 24 months notice, but not less than 12 clear months and the notice must ensure that the tenancy terminates at the end of the contractual term.
Almost as soon as notice has been served, I would recommend that the landlord or their agent arranges to meet with the tenant, inspect the holding and flag any issues which need addressing (as per the repair and maintenance schedule within the FBT, or in lieu of such a schedule, the Model Clauses) prior to the end of the lease.
Ideally, this meeting would be followed up in writing so each party has a record of what was seen and said at the inspection. This is so that the tenant is in no doubt of what they must do prior to the end of the lease if they want to avoid any end of tenancy dilapidation claims, and as such, can plan for this by programming in any work as necessary into their schedule.
Equally though, this also allows for the landlord to assess any matters that they may need to address – either before the end of the lease, or ahead of any new lease commencing.
Try to avoid leaving checks to the last minute
Moreover, arranging such a meeting is an opportunity to discuss matters such as the transfer of any environmental schemes from the tenant to either the landlord or future tenant, or the transfer of any BPS reference periods, whether any TB testing needs to be undertaken prior to the tenant vacating or if there are any rental arrears that you would like to see cleared prior to the end of the tenancy.
If your tenant is due to leave shortly, and you have not yet had the opportunity to inspect the holding and hold any end of tenancy conversations, then I would urge you to make contact now and check in on your tenant’s progress with vacating the holding.
From experience, I know that many tenants will leave end of tenancy considerations to the last minute, especially when they are continuing to farm and feel they need to prioritise this rather than any impending move.
Where this is the case, anything you can do to help focus their mind will be of benefit. Check any holdover provisions your tenancy agreement, what rights does the tenant have after the tenancy agreement has ended, can they come back to harvest crops/ access any grain in store or are there no such provisions in place? In which case you might need to discuss this as soon as possible.
If all else fails, ensure you have the tenant’s forwarding address, mobile number and email address so that if you find anything after they have left which needs rectifying, you have means to contact them.
If any CLA members would like to discuss agricultural tenancy related matters with the South East adviser team, please call us on 01264 358195.