What security an existing allotment holder has, what terms should be included in a new allotment agreement and what are not allowed?
With increased interest in gardening, healthy living and with many modern homes having only a pocket handkerchief of a garden, allotments are gaining in popularity in some areas, whilst in other parts of the country they are underused. Some enlightened landowners and developers are incorporating allotments into new housing developments, whilst other owners are looking to regain vacant possession with an eye to redevelopment.
Putting aside colourful images of ‘Tom and Barbara’ and ‘Digging for Victory’ (and avoiding a BREXIT perspective!), what security does an existing allotment holder have and what terms should be included in a new allotment agreement and what are not allowed?
The relevant legislation is contained in two Acts: one made in 1922, the other in 1950 (both made after World Wars) and cover an ‘allotment garden’ which is defined as not exceeding forty poles (1,011.72 square yards) and which is wholly or mainly cultivated by the occupier for the production of vegetable or fruit crops for consumption by himself or his family.
In order to terminate an agreement for the letting of an allotment, the landlord needs to give 12 months’ (or longer) notice to quit expiring on or before the 6th April or on or after the 29th September in any year.
A well-drawn allotment agreement will make provision for early termination if the land is required for building in which case three months’ previous notice in writing will be required. However if the tenancy is ended on this ground, the landlord is obliged to pay compensation to the tenant for crops growing upon the land in the ordinary course of the cultivation of the land as an allotment garden or allotment gardens, and for manure applied to the land plus one year’s rent as compensation for disturbance.
Provision should also be made for re-entry for non-payment of rent or breach of any term or condition of the tenancy or on account of the tenant becoming bankrupt or compounding with his creditors.
Landlords should bear in mind when resuming possession that if the tenancy is terminated on the 29th September or the 11th October, or at any date between those days, the tenant is entitled at any time within 21 days after the termination of the tenancy to remove any crops growing on the land.
Tenants need to be aware that, when quitting an allotment, the landlord will - notwithstanding any agreement to the contrary - be entitled to recover compensation in respect of any deterioration of the land caused by failure of the tenant to maintain it, and keep it clean and in a good state of cultivation and fertility.
Rather quaintly landlords are not allowed to bar the keeping of hens or rabbits on a non-commercial basis and tenants are entitled to place hutches or sheds on the allotment, unless the landlord can argue that the keeping of any hens or rabbits would be prejudicial to health or a nuisance.
Therefore, if you are thinking of letting land out as individual allotments, make sure the tenancy is recorded in writing and if there is any prospect of future redevelopment include express provision for early termination and be careful of rabbits and hens!