The Tenant Farming Commissioner has published a guide to "General Statutory Compliance" in the tenanted sector. The guide summarises the statutory requirements relevant to the operation of farms and how to comply with them.
The guide contains a table and checklist covering a range of compliance issues, including electrical inspections, portable appliance testing, legionella, septic tanks, boiler servicing and private water supplies.
The guide makes it clear that it does not take into account specific wording in individual leases and/or post lease agreements. Instead, it follows the principle that the landlord is responsible for replacement/renewal of fixed equipment as required by natural decay or fair wear and tear, and the tenant is responsible for maintenance.
Replacement & Renewal v Maintenance
Whilst the guide is a useful summary and starting point, it cannot, unfortunately, take account of the difficulties involved in trying to identify what works constitute replacement and renewal, and what works constitute maintenance. This issue has been examined in the Land Court (in particular, the series of decisions between Mr Telfer and Buccleuch Estates Limited) and it is clear that much will depend on the circumstances of each case.
The guide does, however, highlight that the tenant's improvements regime will also be relevant. Where the tenant has installed/upgraded electrics or water supply infrastructure, the guide advises that the tenant will be responsible for ensuring that the works meet the relevant compliance standards.
Repairing Standard and Agricultural Tenancies
Whilst the guide does not make detailed provision for the repairing standard, it notes that housing included within agricultural tenancies must currently meet the tolerable standard, and, from 2027, all housing within agricultural tenancies must meet the repairing standard.
For completeness, we would highlight that the repairing standard already applies to some housing within agricultural tenancies. Where a house within an agricultural tenancy is sub-let (and so not occupied by the agricultural tenant), the landlord is obliged to ensure that the property complies with the repairing standard.
There is an argument that the "landlord" in this context means the agricultural tenant (who is the "landlord" in terms of the sub-lease of the residential property). From a practical perspective, it is likely to be only the agricultural tenant who will have the right to enter/inspect the residential property in terms of the sub-lease.
Broadly speaking, it is currently only the farmhouse occupied by the tenant which is exempt from the repairing standard - but as an item of fixed equipment, both landlord and tenant will have responsibilities in relation to the condition of the property in terms of statute, the lease and/or any valid post lease agreement.
From 2027, the repairing standard will apply to all properties within agricultural tenancies, and this raises questions of whose responsibility it will be to undertake any works required to bring houses to the required standard. The competing requirements of the housing and agricultural holdings legislation do not sit easily together; we have touched on this issue in previous blogs.
We will follow the discussion relating to compliance with the repairing standard in agricultural tenancies closely, in particular with regard to the division of responsibility for compliance between landlord and tenant, and provide further updates in due course.
The Tenant Farming Commissioner has indicated that a guide on how to comply with the general repair and maintenance obligations of fixed equipment will follow later in the year.