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HMRC internal manual

Inheritance Tax Manual

Agricultural Holdings Act 1986: the protected annual tenancy

For agricultural land to qualify as an agricultural holding (IHTM24220) and be protected by the legislation, it must be let under a ‘contract of tenancy’ as defined by AHA1986/S1 (5).That is, a letting of land, or an agreement for letting land, for a term of years or from year to year.

Many agricultural tenancies are yearly tenancies and these can only be terminated by a minimum of 12 months notice to quit expiring on a term date of the tenancy. So, if the tenancy commenced on 1 April in any one year then the notice to quit would have to be given at least 12 months before 1 April in the year that the landlord wanted to determine the tenancy.

The Act also converted into a protected yearly tenancy any letting of land for an interest less than a year and provision is made for the continuation of fixed-term lettings of two years or more as yearly tenancies following termination. Many contractual licences to occupy agricultural land will also be converted to yearly tenancies under the Act.

So, the scheme of the protection is based on the deemed or actual yearly tenancy of agricultural land. Security is given to the tenant by providing that such tenancies can only be brought to an end in accordance with the notice to quit provisions of Part III of the AHA 1986.

Although in practice many yearly tenancies will be in writing, this is not essential. (A fixed-term tenancy of 3 years or more must, however be by deed, under the Law of Property Act 1925/S52 and 54).

If a landowner allows someone to occupy land in return for an annual, or other regular payment, the inference is that he was granting an agricultural tenancy or licence and the AHA will apply accordingly, unless the occupation is under a grazing licence (IHTM24223).