Agricultural Tenancies and Covid-19

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Covid-19 has had an impact on all our lives in some way or another. It has also had a significant impact on the law. The Coronavirus Act 2020 received Royal Assent on 25th March 2020, and the Act outlines numerous changes to our current legislation in light of the global challenges that we are currently facing. The Act touches upon various aspects such as food production, referendum, elections, pensions etc and provides guidance as to what can and can’t be done in the current circumstances.  One question that we have been asked a number of times in recent months is whether or not the Act provides Agricultural Tenants with protection from eviction during Covid-19?

Section 81 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides Tenants of residential properties with protection from eviction between 26th March 2020 and 30th September 2020 in the event that they cannot pay their rent due to financial restraints as a consequence of Covid-19. This is a highly debated subject as many residential Tenants are not paying their rent following the passing of this Act, however this Act does not provide that residential Tenants do not have to pay rent, it simply provides the Landlord and the Tenant the ability to come to an arrangement between them as to the payment of rent and prevents a Landlord from evicting on that basis for the time being. The purpose of this Act is to provide the Tenant with some certainty that he/she cannot be evicted during this period for late payment or inability to pay rent. The rental sum due between 26th March and 30th September is still payable, and the Tenant will need to be in a position to repay this to the Landlord or face the Landlord bringing court proceedings against them for those rent arrears at a later date.

Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides guidance in relation to Business Tenancies and provides Business Tenancy Tenants with the security from being evicted from their business premises, in the same manner as mentioned for residential tenancies. The Act however defines ‘Business Tenancies’ as those which fall within Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954. Farm Business Tenancies and Agricultural Holdings Act tenancies do not fall within Part 2 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 and as such, there is currently no protection for Agricultural Tenants from being evicted  for late payment/non-payment of rent. This is a very worrying time for Agricultural Tenants as they are already facing the financial challenges of Covid-19 in terms of both dairy and beef prices plummeting, meaning reduced cash flow, thus resulting in the potential inability to pay rent. Although there is no provisions for Agricultural Tenancies in the Coronavirus Act 2020, it is hoped however that the Landlords will be sympathetic in the current climate and we have certainly heard of instances where Landlords and Tenants through effective communication have been able to agree alternative arrangements during this difficult time to their mutual benefit. This is something to be encouraged and shows how cooperation and collaboration within the rural sector is one of its key strengths.. If you are uncertain about your position as Landlord or Tenant and required assistance or advice in light of the current circumstances please contact Elin Owen on 07494 501187 for more advice and guidance.