A Court of Appeal ruling serves as a warning for the drafting of future farm tenancy agreements and the interpretation of existing agreements, experts warn.
The case, Rees v. Earl of Plymouth, involved a 240-acre farm near Cardiff which has been farmed by the same tenant family since the 1960’s under two separate Agricultural Holdings Act (AHA) tenancies.
The landowner wished to develop part of the site for housing and obtained outline planning permission.
But he subsequently fell out with the tenant farmer when attempting to enter the farm to carry out wildlife and habitat surveys, a requirement of the planning permission granted.
The surveys included digging boreholes and leaving bat detectors on the land. Whilst the court agreed with the tenant that the landlord could not dig boreholes or carry out significant works as part of any survey, the judgement held that leaving bat detectors on the land was permitted.
Law firm Royds Withy King said the ruling was 'significant' as it meant that each case needed to be 'considered individually on its own merits'.
Vicky Hernandez, a partner at the firm, said: “Whilst the starting point is the tenant’s right to exclusive possession, in this case there wasn’t substantial or serious interference or damage resulting from the bat boxes or surveyors’ reference pins being left on the land. The two AHA tenancies had been correctly interpreted.”
“Future drafting of AHA tenancy agreements must expressly provide for landlords wishing to carry out surveys or work and the likely interference and compensation provision.
"Any landlords hoping to access land in a similar way would be well advised to check the terms of the tenancy agreement and to reach agreement with the tenant first to avoid a similar issue.”