The new Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Code of Practice: what will it cover and how will it help?

The new Agricultural Landlord and Tenant Code of Practice for England (the Code) was published on 8 April 2024. Our article has an overview of what the code will cover and how it will help landlord and tenant relationships.

The new Code

The new Code is designed to foster and encourage clarity, communication, and collaboration in the tenanted farming sector.

The Code states that it 'exists to support landlords and tenants, and their professional advisers, to establish and maintain positive, productive and sustainable commercial relationships. It aims to foster positive landlord-tenant relationships, achieved through dialogue and a sense of fairness and proportionality.'

The Code is expected to help address poor conduct between landlords, tenants and agents while highlighting good practice. This is especially important as the National Farmers Union estimates that 60% of the farm businesses it represents are tenants.

The Code was produced by an industry led working group and is endorsed by the member organisations of the Farm Tenancy Forum. It is a succinct twelve pages long. Though the Code is voluntary, the hope is that given the industry led approach to creating it, the Code will be widely adopted and will generally improve practice within the industry.

How does it help?

The Code sets out minimum standards expected of landlords and tenants, and their professional advisors. The various sections of the Code cover the full range of agricultural tenancy matters including: the initial grant, routine engagement during the term, rent reviews, improvements, access to environmental schemes and other business opportunities, termination and renewal, disputes, and the role of professional advisers and agents. It does not replace legal and regulatory obligations but helps to set a framework of expected working practices in the industry.

The clear set of standards now put into place provide straightforward, practical guidance as to what is expected to foster a constructive working relationship. The Code emphasises:

  • Clear communication
  • Realistic timetables and expectations
  • Mutual respect
  • Considering the long view
  • Documenting agreed matters in writing
  • Taking a positive, constructive, and flexible approach to negotiations

It is hoped it will ensure the agricultural tenanted sector continues to thrive by promoting positive relationships and helping to avoid disputes. It is inevitable that disputes will arise from time to time and the Code therefore sets some guidance as to how a dispute should be conducted and interestingly suggests that 'dispute resolvers' may wish to consider whether the parties have acted in accordance with the Code when making a cost award at the end of a matter. The implication is therefore that we will see widespread adoption of the Code over the coming months.

If you are interested in learning more about this topic or other matters concerning rural land, please contact our team of experts, listen to our podcast, or visit our Farms, Estates & Rural Land web page.