Farm workers living in tied accommodation

Tied accommodation is when your home is provided by your employer and tied to the specific job you do.

Types of accommodation for farm workers

Tied accommodation for farm workers is called an agricultural tenancy or an agricultural occupancy. Each kind of agricultural tenancy or occupancy gives you different rights.

What is an agricultural tenancy?

Not all farm workers who live on agricultural land are agricultural tenants. If you live on land that you rent and farm yourself, you may have an agricultural holding.

Your tenancy needs to meet certain conditions to be classed as an agricultural tenancy.

You must live in a self-contained home

You do not have an agricultural tenancy if you share a house with your landlord or you don't have control over who enters the accommodation.

This could be, for example, because your landlord genuinely needs to enter the property without your permission. Your employer must own the home you live in or have arranged for you to live there so that you can do your work.

Rules about your employer

You do not have an agricultural tenancy if you are employed by:

  • a government department
  • the Queen
  • a local council
  • the Forestry Commission
  • a housing association

You may have separate housing rights through the law or rights set out in your contract of employment.

Rules about your job

To be an agricultural worker you must:

  • work for 35 hours or more a week – unless you have a permit to work shorter hours as a result of an industrial injury
  • work for at least some of the time on maintaining crops, livestock, forestry, or tractors, and other equipment (including in market gardens and plant nurseries)
  • have been employed in agriculture for at least 91 weeks of the last 104 – this can include paid holiday and sick leave, and working with different employers or on different farms

There are other situations where you may have an agricultural tenancy.

You are not usually considered to be an agricultural worker you work on a fish farm or keep animals for sport.

Types of agricultural tenancy

You have to meet certain conditions to qualify as an agricultural tenant. If you are an agricultural tenant, the type of tenancy you have depends on when your tenancy started.

Tenancies starting before 15 January 1989

You have a regulated tenancy (also known as a statutory or protected agricultural tenancy) if your agricultural tenancy started before 15 January 1989. 

You have many of the same rights as a private tenant with a regulated tenancy.

Your right to live in your home does not end even if you lose your job or retire or if the property is sold. 

After you die, your tenancy can be passed to your spouse or partner or a member of your family in certain circumstances.

In most cases, the only way that your landlord can evict you is to supply you with suitable alternative accommodation. This must be either another regulated tenancy or a secure tenancy provided by a local council.

Tenancies starting after 15 January 1989

If your agricultural tenancy started after 15 January 1989, you might have a shorthold agricultural occupancy or an an assured agricultural tenancy.

Shorthold agricultural occupancy

You only have a shorthold agricultural occupancy if your landlord gave you a written notice saying that the occupancy was a shorthold at the start of your tenancy. 

The tenancy type is similar to an assured shorthold tenancy but gives you fewer housing rights.

Assured agricultural tenancy

Your rights as an assured agricultural tenant are similar to those for assured tenancies.

You stay an agricultural tenant even if you lose your job. Your right to live in the accommodation doesn't end when your job ends.

You have the right to stay in the property unless a court makes an eviction order against you.

Tenancy rights if you leave your job

If you are an agricultural tenant and you retire or you lose your job, you keep your tenancy and the housing rights of that tenancy.

If you are an agricultural worker but don't have an agricultural tenancy, you have less protection from eviction. Your landlord doesn't need a court order to evict you if are a lodger in their home. Otherwise, your landlord probably needs a court order to evict you.

Eviction from an agricultural tenancy

You only have to leave an agricultural tenancy if a court issues a possession order telling you to leave. 

Your landlord can only get a possession order against you in certain circumstances, including if you:

  • do not pay the rent (there may be rules on how much and for how long)
  • break a condition of the tenancy
  • cause a nuisance
  • damage your home
  • are provided with suitable alternative accommodation by your landlord or the council

These rules apply if you have an assured agricultural tenancy (not a shorthold agricultural occupancy) or a regulated agricultural tenancy.

You can still stay in the property if you lose your job, leave to start another one or you cannot work because of illness or injury.

If your landlord needs your home for another farm worker, they must offer you alternative accommodation. If they are unable to do this they must ask your council to re-house you. Your council must do everything it can to find you somewhere else to live.

Rent payments in agricultural tenancies

Many agricultural tenants do not pay rent. The amount of rent you need to pay can vary according to the type of agricultural tenancy that you have.

Protected agricultural tenancies

Landlords don't usually charge rent if you have a protected or agricultural tenancy, but do usually start to charge rent when you stop working.

You can either:

Assured and assured shorthold agricultural tenancies

You don't usually need to pay rent when you are working for your landlord. If your landlord charges you a market rent, it is set at an agreed amount.

Your landlord can start to charge rent when you stop working, even if you didn't pay rent before. Your landlord can charge a market rent, usually the going rate for the size and type of accommodation you live in. 

You can ask a rent officer to set the rent level if you think the amount your landlord asks you to pay is unfair.  You should usually do this within 1 month of getting notice of your landlord's proposed rent increase.

If you agree to pay the amount your landlord asks for, you can't ask a rent officer to look at it later.

Rent officers can put the rent up as well as down, so get advice before you ask them to do this.

What happens when an agricultural tenant dies

Your agricultural tenancy passes to your spouse or partner if they are living with you when you die. The tenancy can only be passed on once.

The tenancy can pass on to a member of your family if you are not married or are not living with a partner, but only if they have been living in the property with you for at least 2 years.

Still need help?

Contact a Shelter adviser online, by phone or in person.

Last updated 28 Jul 2016 | © Shelter

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