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Farm Working Accommodation : Rights and Duties

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Are you aware of your rights and duties where you provide tied accommodation to farm workers?

Qualifying farm workers living in tied accommodation who pay no rent at all, low rent or a market rent, have housing security. This security continues at the end of a contract of employment, whether the farm worker retires, is dismissed, made redundant or resigns. This means that you cannot evict the occupant, where the agricultural worker condition is fulfilled, unless suitable alternative accommodation is available or certain limited grounds for possession apply.

Qualifying farm workers must have been employed in agriculture whole time or as permit workers for two years which do not have to have been at the same farm or with the same farmer. Whole time means 35 hours of actual work per week. The property must also at some time during the tenancy be or have been in ‘qualifying ownership’ which means that it must either be owned by the employer or by someone with whom the employer has made arrangement to provide accommodation for someone they employ.

Retired workers who have worked for the two year period and who have been forced by injury or ill health to give up employment in agriculture, provided they were working whole-time, and former farm workers who have taken up employment outside agriculture provided they have completed the two year qualifying period, fulfill the agricultural worker condition and have the benefit of housing security.

Farm workers who have not completed the two year qualifying period will still have contractual security before and when their contract of employment ends under the Protection from Eviction Act 1977, whereby an occupant cannot normally be evicted without a court order, and courts can sometimes postpone the order for up to six months.

If the farm worker qualified for housing security by fulfilling the agricultural condition, there will be an automatic right to security for the widow or widower living with the worker at the time of his or her death. This includes a person who was living with the tenant as his wife or husband. For a tenancy entered into before 15 January 1989, if there is no widow or widower, another member of the worker’s family will take on the tenancy provided he or she has been living with the worker for at least two years immediately before the worker’s death. Only one succession is normally possible.

If a farmer wants to let the property for short periods and be sure of regaining possession, then he can let the property out on an assured shorthold tenancy where the rent is £250 or more per year and for an employer wishing to grant an assured shorthold tenancy to a qualifying agricultural worker, he must serve a notice on the tenant prior to the start of the tenancy notifying the tenant that he is proposing to grant an assured shorthold tenancy even where the tenancy meets the conditions for an agricultural occupancy.

If you are wishing to regain possession of a property let to a qualifying farm worker, or want to grant a tenancy to a new farm worker, then it is important that you first seek legal advice and I would be happy to help in this regard.