In the recent case of Smyth-Tyrrell and another v Bowden , the High Court has considered the tenants' claims in relation to rights over agricultural land where a tenancy exists.
In this case, the tenant asked the owner of Baswidjack Farm for a 15-year lease. The land included a derelict house, a barn and overgrown land which was not suitable for farming. The tenant requested that the lease enabled him to restore the buildings so that he could rent them out, although he was not obliged to do so. Whilst the owner agreed to the lease, it was only signed by the tenant.
At the end of the 15-year lease, rent was still being paid by the tenant and accepted by the landlord which turned the lease into an annual tenancy. In June 2014 the landlord served a notice to quit.
The tenants brought a claim against the landlord on the basis of the following 3 arguments:
1. The tenants firstly argued that they had a tenancy of an Agricultural Holding under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 which protected them from a notice to quit.
2. The tenants’ second argument was that if it was found they did not have a tenancy of an Agricultural Holding, they had a business tenancy under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 and were entitled to the grant of a new tenancy.
3. Lastly, the tenants argued that they had an interest in the land by virtue of the doctrine of proprietary estoppel.
In relation to each of the above arguments, the High Court held as follows:
S1 of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 applies to Agricultural Holdings and provides that a contract for an agricultural tenancy is:
“a contract of tenancy relating to land if the whole of the land comprised in the contract is agricultural land”.
'Agriculture' is defined under the Act so as to include "horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming and livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes".
As the land was unfarmable and the letting was not for the purpose of carrying on any agricultural activity on the land, the work did not, therefore, constitute agriculture within the meaning of the Act. The Judge held that this was not a contract for an agricultural tenancy, the land was not an agricultural holding, and accordingly, the tenancy was not protected under the 1986 Act.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 protects business tenancies, however, protection under the 1954 Act is given only to the "holding".