AHA tenancy succession – what you need to know

20 November 2023

Tenants and land
A farm house on a sheep farm

NFU Legal and Technical adviser Louise Smith explains the key procedures and actions you may need to take following the death of a tenant.

Not all AHA (Agricultural Holdings Act) tenancies allow succession. Generally, only tenancies granted before 12 July 1984 are capable of succession (although there are some exceptions to this). Those that do have the potential for succession allow only two statutory successions from 14 November 1976.

To be an AHA tenancy, the tenancy must have started before 1 September 1995.

Key procedures

Succession can occur on the death or retirement of the tenant. Succession does not happen automatically, and the correct procedures must be followed. This checklist focuses on the key procedures following death.

1. Written notice to the landlord

The personal representatives of the deceased must serve a written notice on the landlord to inform them of the death. This applies even if the landlord knows of the death. The landlord then has three months to serve a notice to quit.

2. Application to the Tribunal

The proposed successor must make an application to First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber) in England, or the Agricultural Lands Tribunal in Wales, within three months of the tenant’s death using the correct form.

This is the most important point to remember and is time critical.

If the correct procedure is not followed the application will not be accepted by the tribunal.

3. Written notice to the landlord

At the same time as the application is made to the Tribunal, a notice in the correct form must be given to the landlord, who must reply within one month of receipt if they wish to dispute the application.

4. The hearing

At the hearing the tribunal will decide whether to uphold any notice to quit given by the landlord or agree to the succession. The applicant must show that they are ‘eligible’ by satisfying the statutory tests which are:

  1. The close relationship test;
  2. The principal source of livelihood test; and
  3. The commercial unit occupation test.

They must also demonstrate that they are a ‘suitable applicant’. This is not a technical test and leaves wide discretion to the tribunal when making their decision.

More than one person can apply to succeed, but if the deceased has nominated one of the applicants to succeed in their will, the tribunal must consider that application first. It cannot consider any other applications unless the nominated person is ineligible or unsuitable.

Changes from 1 September 2024

The rules on eligibility in England are changing for deaths on or after 1 September 2024. From this date the commercial unit occupation test (which is one of the eligibility tests, see above), will be repealed.

There will also be a new, simplified suitability test. The changes will also be introduced in Wales on a date to be appointed.

Get support

Succession is a complicated process. It can be very easy in the turmoil following a tenant’s death for the family to forget to make an application to the tribunal in time.

Although it is possible to succeed without going to the tribunal, this relies on the agreement of the landlord, the tenancy being capable of succession and the applicant passing the close relationship test.

It is important that families seek prompt advice and CallFirst can provide this. NFU members can reach out to CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 to speak to one of our Legal and Technical advisers.

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