To coincide with the introduction of new legislation, Defra asked the Tenancy Reform Industry Group (TRIG) to update its 2004 code of good practice.  The result is the recently published TRIG Code of Good Practice for projects, schemes or work requiring landlord's consent in agricultural tenancies.

The Code aims to provide a framework and guide for landlords and tenants negotiating variations to agricultural tenancies to facilitate access to funding for agri-environment schemes and diversification projects.  It is designed to assist parties in reaching agreement where possible, but also steers the parties through a new arbitration mechanism to be used (albeit in limited circumstances) where agreement cannot be reached.  As the UK subsidy regime changes (following the UK's exit from the EU) and moves towards payments to farmers for 'public goods', the government has identified that mechanisms are needed to help many agricultural tenants overcome blocks in traditional tenancy agreements.  Many agricultural tenancies limit the ways in which the land can be used and don't allow that use to varied, without prior consent, to tie in with the diversification and environmental schemes which the government is trying to encourage with the new subsidy regime.              

Much of the Code is sensible good practice, such as ensuring rent is up to date before approaching a landlord and setting out proposals early and in writing.  It does, however, also explain the more technical requirements of the formal arbitration process and provides guidance for parties on alternative dispute resolution options where arbitration is not available or suitable.

Of course the ideal scenario is that a landlord and tenant are able to avoid disputes and successfully collaborate on such projects, but it is hoped that where this isn't possible the Code will prove to be helpful.  But the Code isn't binding and it doesn't guarantee that one or other party won't dig their heels in if they are determined to do so.