Letting land for grazing
It is important to ensure that when you let land for grazing you have a written agreement in place, writes Caroline Gumbrell, associate director at Greenwoods LLP. If you don’t, then it is very easy to grant a tenancy that gives far more protection than either party to the agreement intended.
If you let land for grazing sheep for part only of the year then, provided you don’t give away exclusive use of the land, you will, in the absence of agreement to the contrary, grant a licence which can be terminated at very short notice.
‘Exclusive use’ in this context means that the landlord needs permission to enter the land and probably access as well, if there is a gate or other structure which is otherwise stopping him or her entering the land freely.
If you do give exclusive use of the land to a third party then you will create a tenancy rather than a licence. It is particularly important in these circumstances to document what has been agreed and understood between you and the tenant.
If you let land for the grazing of a horse then provided the horse is a family horse the tenant will almost certainly only have a common law tenancy. This tenancy can be brought to an end on notice. How much notice you have to give will depend on how often rent is paid, so it is better to agree a monthly or quarterly rent than an annual one, as a much shorter period of notice will be required.
If the land is to be used for a livery or other equine business use such as riding stables then, save in very limited circumstances, it will be a tenancy protected by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 (‘the Act’). It is important with this type of tenancy that you consider your long term plans for the site and if you need the land back at short notice that you exclude the protection afforded by the Act when the tenant goes into occupation.
If you don’t, and the tenant does not leave voluntarily, then save in very limited circumstances you will not be able to get the land back at the end of the term; instead you will have to grant a new continuation tenancy whether you want to or not. If you exclude the protection of the Act, the tenancy will end at the expiry of the term that was granted and the tenant will have no right to remain.
If the land is being used for an agricultural business, whether primarily or wholly, such as for the commercial grazing of horses or the rearing of horses for their meat, then it is likely that the tenant will occupy the land pursuant to the provisions of the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995.
How the tenant occupies in those circumstances will be entirely governed by what is agreed between the parties. The agreement must be for less than two years if it is to expire at the end of the term that is granted. After that you will need to give at least one year’s notice before you can get the land back.
Greenwoods Solicitors LLP’s specialist agricultural team brings together a wealth of experience from a range of legal disciplines. We provide advice on the wide range of property, commercial and private matters affecting those that own agricultural land and/or run agricultural businesses. To talk about how our team can support you, please call Caroline Gumbrell on 01733 887745 or email her on cmgumbrell [at] greenwoods.co.uk.