AHA tenancies – what to do if you receive an unqualified notice to quit

26 July 2023

Tenants and land
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Have you received an 'unqualified notice to quit'? Our expert team explains where this exception applies and what to do if you receive notice from your landlord.

Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 Tenancies, also known as AHAs, are tenancies over agricultural holdings which were created before 1 September 1995.

It is well known that AHA tenancies are highly protected within the Act, but this doesn’t mean that landlords are unable to serve a notice to quit on the tenant.

When is a counter notice required?

An ‘unqualified’ notice to quit can be served on the tenant, and as the name suggests, the landlord does not have to specify a reason for such notice.

Time is then very much of the essence as the tenant will have only one month to serve a counter notice. It is therefore crucial that the tenant instructs a professional adviser straight away.

If the tenant does not serve a counter notice within one month, the landlord's notice is valid, and the tenancy will come to an end at the end of the notice period.

Don't delay

Strict time limits and deadlines apply to AHA matters, so if you receive a formal notice from, or on behalf of, your landlord then you should instruct a professional adviser without delay. 

NFU members can contact CallFirst on 0370 845 8458 to speak to one of our specialist advisers.

The one month notice expires on the corresponding day of the following month. For example a notice dated 1 February will expire on 1 March. Care must also be taken that the counter notice is also served on the correct landlord.

Generally, a counter notice is not required when a landlord serves notice under one of the Special Cases A – H set out in the AHA 1986.

However, in some instances, a notice from a landlord may be a dual notice and purport to rely on a Special Case and an unqualified notice. In these situations, where a tenant goes to arbitration for the Special Case part of the notice and the Special Case fails, the tenant must serve a counter notice for the unqualified part of the notice.

This must be done within one month of termination of the arbitration.

In brief, the Special Cases A – H referred to above, are:

  • Case A – Smallholdings where the tenant has reached statutory retirement age
  • Case B – Planning consent for non-agricultural use
  • Case C – Certificate of bad husbandry
  • Case D – Non-compliance with notice to pay rent or notice to remedy a breach of the tenancy
  • Case E – Irremediable breach
  • Case F – Insolvency
  • Case G – Death of the tenant
  • Case H – Ministry amalgamations

Serving a counter notice

If a tenant issues a counter notice, then the unqualified notice to quit can only take effect if the landlord seeks the consent of the Tribunal. The Tribunal can only then grant consent if:

  • It is satisfied that a fair and reasonable landlord would insist on possession; and
  • The landlord is able to demonstrate that one or more of the following 6 grounds are satisfied (known as s.27(3) grounds), those being:
  1. Terminating the tenancy is desirable in the interest of good husbandry (i.e. that the land would be better farmed under a proposed new regime);
  2. Terminating is desirable in the interest of sound management (a classic example being where the landlord is looking to amalgamate the let land with other land, and convert two uneconomic units into one efficient farm);
  3. Terminating is desirable for the purposes of agricultural research, education, experiment or demonstration;
  4. Terminating is desirable for purpose of setting up an allotment (i.e. a garden for the production of vegetables not for the purpose of trade or business);
  5. It would cause greater hardship to the landlord in not allowing possession than it would to the tenant by granting possession; or
  6. The landlord proposes to terminate the tenancy for the purpose of the land being used for a use other than agriculture that does not require planning consent (such as, for example, private forestry).

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