Limited duration tenancies (LDTs)
Limited duration tenancies were introduced in 2003. If you have taken on an agricultural tenancy since then with a lease of more than five years, you are likely to have an Limited duration tenancy. This page explains your rights.
How do I know if I have a limited duration tenancy?
You will probably have a limited duration tenancy if:
- you rent agricultural land, and
- your tenancy began after 2003, and
- your lease lasts 15 years or more, and
- you aren't employed by your landlord - if you are, you'll probably be an agricultural occupier, service occupier or service tenant.
Limited duration tenancies have to last at least 15 years. If your lease states that your tenancy lasts more than five years but less than 15 years, it will by default be an limited duration tenancy and will last for 15 years.
If you have converted from a 1991 Act tenancy to an limited duration tenancy, your lease must run for at least 25 years.
You don't have to live on the land itself to be an agricultural tenant.
What are my rights?
As a limited duration agricultural tenant, you have rights that are protected by law. These include the right:
- to a written lease
- to get compensation for any improvements to the agricultural property that you've carried out, and possibly other compensation payments as well (when the lease ends)
- to use the land for non-agricultural purposes
- to pass on your tenancy to someone else
- to leave your tenancy to a spouse or relative in your will.
These rights should be set out in the lease you have with your landlord. If your lease doesn't contain these rights, get legal advice from a solicitor specialising in agricultural law. In most cases, your landlord shouldn't be able to take these rights away from you, for example by including clauses in your lease which contradict them.
What should a written lease contain?
Before your tenancy starts, your landlord should provide you with a written lease, setting out the terms and conditions of the tenancy. If you don't have a written lease, or if your lease doesn't cover all the points listed below, you can ask your landlord to supply one, and they must do so within six months. If they refuse, or if you can't agree on the terms and conditions, you can go to the Land Court and they can decide the terms and conditions of the tenancy for you.
The lease must include:
- your name and the name of your landlord (the parties of the lease)
- a description of the land you're renting (the subjects of the lease)
- how long you'll be renting it for (the duration or term of the lease) - if different parts of the land are let for different lengths of time, this should also be stated here
- how much the rent is and when you need to pay it
- a list of all the fixed equipment on the land
- additional information about responsibility for repairs to fixed equipment (see 'who is responsible for repairs' below)
- details of your landlord's responsibility to insure the property against fire damage and repair any damage caused by fire, and your responsibility to insure the crops and stock against fire damage.
The lease may also contain other terms and conditions, but these can't include anything which might prevent you from farming the land properly or take away your legal rights.
Who is responsible for repairs?
You and your landlord both have certain responsibilities to maintain the fixed equipment on the land you are renting.
Fixed equipment includes:
- permanent buildings such as farm houses, cottages and barns
- fences, hedges and gates
- ditches and ponds
- water and sewerage systems
- roads, bridges and fords
- electrical equipment, such as generators, fixed motors and wiring systems.
The page on repairs and improvements explains your rights and responsibilities in more detail.
What happens when the lease runs out?
Your written lease should say how long your tenancy lasts for and when your lease expires. However, you don't necessarily have to leave on that date - you may negotiate with your landlord to carry on the tenancy.
If your landlord wants you to leave at the end of the lease, they have to follow the correct procedure. If they fail to do so, your tenancy will carry on through a 'cycle of continuations'. The page on eviction at the end of your LDT or SLDT lease explains this in more detail.
What if I want to leave?
You can arrange to end the tenancy at any time, providing your landlord agrees to this.
If you wish to end the tenancy when your lease expires, you must give your landlord written notice of no less than one year and no more than two years before the expiry date of the lease or the continuation period.
Can my landlord ask me to leave before the lease runs out?
Before your lease is up, your tenancy can only be ended if:
- you and your landlord agree to end it, or
- you break a term of your lease, or
- your landlord needs the land back for non-agricultural purposes.
The page on eviction before the end of your lmited duration or short limited duration lease explains this in more detail.
Can I use the land for anything other than agriculture?
Even if your lease prohibits it, limited duration tenants are allowed to use agricultural land for other purposes (such as tourism or forestry). This is known as diversification. If you wish to do so, you will need to send your landlord a notice (called a 'notice of diversification') outlining your proposal. This must be sent at least 70 days before the changes are due to begin. Your landlord can ask you to supply further information if necessary.
Does my landlord have to agree to the changes?
Your landlord must let you know their decision in writing within 60 days of the date on the notice of diversification, or 60 days from the date they ask you to send them further information. If they don't let you know their decision within this time, you can assume they agree to your plans.
Your landlord can object to your proposal if they feel it would be harmful to the land or would cause them undue hardship. If you think they are being unreasonable, you can take your case to the Land Court.
If your landlord agrees to your proposal, they can impose reasonable conditions.
Will I still have an agricultural tenancy?
Even if you no longer use the land for agricultural purposes, you will still be an agricultural tenant.
Can my landlord change the rent?
Your lease should set out when and how often the amount of rent you have to pay can be altered. If your lease doesn't contain this information, the procedure outlined below must be followed.
If you or your landlord want to change the rent, you will need to send the other party a notice requesting a rent review. This must give at least one year but no more than two years' notice of the date of the review. Once you're agreed on a new rent level, this will be payable from the review date.
How often can the rent change?
You can only have a rent review once every three years, unless your landlord has carried out improvements to the land and wants to put up the rent. In this case, they must give you written notice within six months of completing the improvements.
What can my landlord take into account when setting rent levels?
When setting rent levels, your landlord can't take into account:
- how the fact that you occupy the land affects its value
- any shortage of land to let in your area
- any improvements you've made and paid for yourself
- any improvements they've made that were paid for by a grant
- any damage or deterioration to the land that you're responsible for
- any reduction in rental value due to diversification (using the land for non-agricultural purposes)
- any conservation work you've done.
However, your landlord should consider:
- the terms of your tenancy
- rents charged for other similar land in the area
- the current economic conditions in your particular sector of agriculture
- any improvements they've made and paid for
- any rise in value due to diversification.
Can the Land Court change the rent?
If you or your landlord apply to the Land Court to settle any disputes over your lease, they can vary the rent if necessary.
Can I sublet the land?
You can sublet the land to another tenant if your lease permits it.
Can I pass on my tenancy to someone else?
You have the right to assign your tenancy to anyone you choose. If you are planning to do this, you must inform your landlord in writing, telling them:
- who you propose to assign the tenancy to (the assignee)
- what the terms and conditions of the assignation will be
- the date you want to pass the tenancy on.
Your landlord can refuse to let you assign the tenancy if they have a good reason to do so. In particular, they can refuse if they think the proposed new tenant won't be able to pay the rent or maintain the land properly. They must let you know their decision in writing within 30 days. If they don't reply, you can assume they give their consent.
Your landlord also has the right to override the proposed assignation by taking over the tenancy on the same terms that you had set out for the assignee. This means you can leave the tenancy without having to go through the tenancy termination process.
Can I leave my tenancy to someone in my will?
You have a right to leave your tenancy to any of the following people in your will:
- your husband, wife or civil partner
- a blood relative (for example, a child, brother, sister or parent)
- your daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
You can find out more about wills here.
Do I have the 'right to buy' my limited duration tenancy?
No, only 1991 Act tenants have this right.