22 October 2019

Landmark case for agricultural tenant Decision on notices to quit

A landmark case led by Esther Stirling of our Agriculture and Rural Affairs team has changed the legal landscape for agricultural tenants, clarifying what landlords need to do if they want to use the land held by a tenant for a non-agricultural use which requires planning permission, but do not yet have that permission.

The case, in which Esther represented the tenant against Herefordshire Council, focused on notices to quit and the restrictions surrounding their application.

Agricultural tenancies carry with them a formidable degree of security. Landlords can bring them to an end in limited circumstances, by serving a notice to quit or, where they have planning permission for the new land use, serving a case notice.

Certain rules apply, both to a general notice to quit and to a case notice, if a tenant challenges the notice. The First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) has jurisdiction to determine whether a general notice to quit should be upheld.

If a tenant serves a counter-notice to a general notice to quit – as was done in this case – a landlord must satisfy the Tribunal that the case falls within one of the grounds set out in s.27(3) of the 1986 Act. The Tribunal must also be satisfied that a fair and reasonable landlord would insist on possession.

If a tenant serves a counter-notice to a general notice to quit – as was done in this case – a landlord must satisfy the Tribunal that the case falls within one of the grounds set out in s.27(3) of the 1986 Act. The Tribunal must also be satisfied that a fair and reasonable landlord would insist on possession.

In this case, the landlord intended to develop the site for residential dwellings, a use that clearly would require planning permission. Rather than waiting until planning was in place and then serving a case notice, they served a general notice to quit and then argued that the conditions fell within the 1986 Act.

We argued that, because the landlord’s use needed planning permission, they should have waited until that existed before issuing any notice – the Tribunal accepted our arguments that the case notice must be used in all such cases where a landlord’s intended use will require planning permission. This avoids the need for a tribunal to try to guess whether planning permission will be granted for a new land use.

Esther said: “Until now, there has been no English decision on this point. This is surprising, on such an important aspect of the notice to quit regime. This case is of real importance in clarifying the law, as well as a real success for our client.”

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About the Author
Esther Stirling, Partner, Head of Agricultural and Rural Affairs

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