Agricultural Holdings Act 1986: Naming the wrong landlord in a succession application

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A recent Upper Tribunal (UT) decision in Adams v Thomas [2021] has looked at the consequences of an applicant naming an incorrect party as landlord on an application for succession under Part IV of the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986 (AHA 1986). The Tribunal decided that this was not fatal to the application.

The case

In this case the applicant's agent had named Mr Adams as the landlord on the application however, the correct landlord was actually a company - Adams DSB Ltd, of which the sole director was the named Mr Adams. The Agricultural Land Tribunal (ALT) decided in the first instance that this mistake was not fatal to the application and consequently substituted the company as respondent. This substitution occurred after the three-month time limit had passed for the succession application to be made. This decision was appealed.

The appeal

The UT looked at two questions: first, whether there is a statutory requirement which requires the landlord to be correctly identified and secondly, whether the ALT had been correct in substituting the correct name of the landlord after the time limit had passed. The UT dismissed the appeal and held that naming the incorrect landlord is not fatal to the validity of an application and that the ALT had been right to correct this error after the expiry of the time limit. 

An analysis of the statutory regime concluded that there is no provision in the AHA 1986, which requires the landlord to be named in the application. Although there is a requirement for this in the Agricultural Land Tribunals (Rules) Order 2007, these rules were obviously not in force when the AHA 1986 was drafted. When considering the significance of what is at stake for an applicant, making an application under Part IV of the AHA 1986, the UT considered that it would not have been Parliament's intention to require the landlord to be correctly identified in an application under section 39 AHA 1986. They recognised that there may be certain practical difficulties in ascertaining the landlord's identity with rural tenancies e.g., unregistered land, the transfer of land within families or the land being vested in a family-owned company or trust, without the knowledge of the tenant.  

Consequences

This decision does not mean that the UT considered that correctly identifying the landlord on the application was unimportant or trivial. It was suggested that in all probability a misidentified landlord would become aware of the proceedings and would be able to make representations to the Tribunal and be added as a party.