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Agreements made before 15.1.89

This content applies to England

The status of agricultural occupiers whose agreement started before 15 January 1989 .


All agreements made before 15 January 1989 are covered by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976, which creates the protected occupancy.[1]

Protected occupancy

A protected occupancy gives many of the same rights as a protected (regulated) tenancy (see the section on Regulated (protected) tenants for more information). A protected occupancy must be terminated in the same way as a protected tenancy (i.e. a case for possession must be proven and a court order for possession obtained).

In order for a protected occupancy to exist, the occupier must be an agricultural occupier (see the page on Definition of agricultural occupier for details). An occupier will also be recognised as a protected occupier if:[2]

  • s/he was formerly a protected occupier and s/he retires, resigns, changes jobs or to part-time work, or is dismissed
  • s/he was formerly a protected occupier of another property that s/he gave up immediately before moving into her/his present property
  • s/he was a protected occupier of the same property and s/he has been given a new licence or tenancy of the same property, but at the time of the re-grant s/he was not working in agriculture.

The second and third situations apply even if the new agreement begins on or after 15 January 1989.[3]

However, no protected occupancy will exist if:

  • the accommodation is a hostel (the definition of this is where the accommodation consists of only one room with shared facilities, and there are at least three other rooms in the same building let out individually to other people)[4]
  • there is a resident landlord[5]
  • the accommodation is let with board and attendance (but only if the board and attendance is of significant value to the occupier - the provision of meals in the course of work will not be sufficient to take the occupier out of protection)[6]
  • there is a long lease (over 21 years)[7]
  • there is a tenancy of an agricultural holding[8]
  • the interest of the landlord belongs to the Crown or a local authority.[9]

Agricultural statutory tenancies

Protected occupiers are protected even when their contractual agreement is ended. The contract may end when the worker receives a notice to quit, has a notice of increase in rent or has a fair rent registered.[10] When this happens, a statutory tenancy will arise, regardless of whether the original contract was a tenancy or a licence agreement.

The statutory tenancy will continue for as long as the occupier occupies the premises as her/his residence. In one case, it was held that while occupation by a spouse of a sole protected occupier was enough for the statutory tenancy to arise, as the tenancy was not transferred to the non-tenant spouse, statutory protection ended on divorce.[11] (See the page Married/civil partner: sole tenant  in the section on Relationship breakdown for more information).

Where there are contractual terms in the original agreement, e.g. repairing obligations, these will continue. Where there are no contractual terms, certain conditions are imposed. These include the following:[12]

  • the tenancy will be weekly if it arises out of a contractual licence
  • any services (e.g. electricity, water, sewerage) that were formerly provided by the landlord must continue to be made available
  • restrictions on assignment, subletting and parting with possession
  • the landlord is bound by the implied covenant to repair found in section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
  • the tenant can end the tenancy by way of notice to quit
  • the landlord and tenant can vary the terms of the tenancy by way of written agreement
  • provisions regulating the rent that may be charged.

Grounds for possession against protected occupiers and statutory tenants

Under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976, landlords can only gain possession from a protected occupier if the contractual tenancy is brought to an end. Court proceedings against statutory tenants and protected occupiers must then be issued, and the court can only grant possession if one or more of the grounds for possession are satisfied. If the ground is discretionary, a court can only grant possession to the landlord if it is reasonable to do so. There are ten discretionary and three mandatory grounds.[13] Most of the grounds are similar to those under the Rent Act 1977.

Where possession is being sought because suitable alternative accommodation is provided or arranged by the landlord, accommodation will be considered suitable if all of the following apply:

  • it is a protected tenancy or gives equivalent security
  • it is reasonably suitable to the needs of the worker and her/his family with regard to proximity to work
  • it offers a rent similar to local authority stock or is reasonably suitable to the means and needs of the tenant.

Landlords can apply to the local authority for rehousing on a protected occupier's behalf. The rules regarding this are the same as for assured agricultural occupiers (see the page on Agreements made on or after 15.1.89 for details). Where a tenant has either accepted or unreasonably failed to accept an offer of local authority accommodation, the landlord can apply for possession under this ground.[14]

The Equality Act 2010 may provide a defence to a tenant with a 'protected characteristic' (i.e. disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy or maternity, race, sex, sexual orientation, and religion or belief) who is subject to possession proceedings.

For further information see the section on Equality Law and the page on Disability discrimination.

Agricultural occupiers outside the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976

Some agricultural occupiers whose tenancies started before 15 January 1989 do not come under the protection of the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976. For example, this could be because their tenancy or licence ended before they have been able to work full time for 91 weeks out of the last 104. These workers have limited security of tenure, which arises from special provisions relating to possession under section 4 of the Protection from Eviction Act 1977. Their position is the same as for agricultural occupiers whose occupancy started on or after 15 January 1989. For more information, see agricultural workers outside the Housing Act 1988 on the page on Agreements made on or after 15.1.89.

See the Harassment and antisocial behaviour section for general information about harassment and illegal eviction.


The system of fair rents does not extend to protected occupiers. Employers and employees are free to agree their own terms.[15] In many cases, little or no rent is paid during the contractual term. However, rent registration does apply to agricultural statutory tenancies that arise at the end of the contractual term. There are provisions for landlords to charge a provisional rent, up to certain limits, until a fair rent can be registered.[16]


For agricultural occupiers protected by the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976, the rules are very similar. Only one succession is permitted. If the original occupier dies leaving a spouse, civil partner or cohabitee who was resident immediately before her/his death, then s/he will be a statutory tenant so long as s/he occupies the dwelling house as her/his residence. If there is no spouse, civil partner or cohabitee, a member of the family can succeed, but s/he must have lived with the original occupier for two years before her/his death and will only succeed to an assured agricultural occupancy.[17]

[1] s.2 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[2] s.2 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[3] s.34(4) Housing Act 1988.

[4] s.23 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[5] para 3(4), Sch.2, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[6] para 3(3), Sch.2, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[7] para 2, Sch.2, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[8] para 2 ,Sch.2, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[9] para 3(4), Sch.2, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[10] s.4 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[11] Hook v Hawkins [2019] UKUT 147 (LC).

[12] Sch.5 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[13] Sch.4 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[14] Case 2, Sch.4, Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[15] s.11 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[16] s.12 Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976.

[17] s.4(4) Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 as amended by para 11, Sch. 4, Housing Act 1988.

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