The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) is alarmed at the growing number of cases where landlords are attempting to evict farm tenants to regain possession of land let under Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies for tree planting purposes but where they are using the wrong notice.
The Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 allows a landlord to use what is called a Case B notice to quit on a tenant if the landlord has gained planning permission for a non-agricultural use of the land.
However, tree planting does not require planning permission and therefore a Case B notice to quit cannot be validly served by a landlord who intends to plant trees on the land which is subject to the notice.
TFA rural surveyor, Caroline Squire, said “We are seeing a lot of instances where landlords are attempting to resume land for tree planting by using Case B notices.
"Tenants are not able to contest these notices, so they are quite frightening when they arrive. However, tenants can ask for the notice to quit to be referred to arbitration to determine that it is an ineligible notice.
It is critically important that the notice demanding arbitration is served by the tenant within one month of the date of the landlord’s notice to quit.
"Failure to respond within the deadline will render the landlords notice valid.
“It is one thing for the notice to quit to have been potentially served on invalid grounds, but it will be up to the tenant to prove it using the processes set out within the legislation.
I would urge any tenant in receipt of a notice to quit for whatever purpose to get immediate advice from the TFA or a relevant professional as soon as possible to protect their position."
Permitted Development rights
Tree planting on land falls under the Permitted Development rights contained within the General Permitted Development Order.
Whilst it has always been the case that this falls outside the scope of Case B, a recent court judgement has underlined the point.
The only circumstance in which a Case B notice to quit for tree planting might be valid is if the tree planting was ancillary to a development which had planning permission - for example, if there was planning permission for a timber processing facility and the land around it was required to grow timber to be used within that facility.
"Similarly, a landscaping requirement for a housing development might also fall within scope. However, straight tree planting without a connected change of use confirmed by a planning consent will always be out of scope for case B,” she added.
Landlords wanting to resume rented land for tree planting can use a general notice to quit, this will need the consent of the First-Tier Property Chamber Tribunal if the tenant has served a counter notice requiring the landlord to obtain the Tribunal’s consent.
However, again, it is important that the tenant in receipt of the notice to quit serves a counter notice within one month of the landlord’s notice.