The Tenant Farmers Association (TFA) has warned the National Trust (NT) is falling behind on farm repairs and the situation could be exacerbated by the charity’s loss of income due to Covid-19.
The NT estimates it will lose up to £200 million this year because of pandemic shutdowns and a redundancy plan has put 1,200 jobs at risk.
Now, the TFA fears tenants who have had a ’legacy of lack of repair and investment from the landlord’ could face a worsening situation due to budget cuts.
The group also warned NT tenants would be unlikely to want to take on more environmental work, as the charity is encouraging, while living in a property with serious repair issues.
TFA chief executive George Dunn said: “Often, the NT will argue it has very little spare resource to carry out repairs and investments – an issue which has become more prevalent in recent times due to the impact of the Covid-19 restrictions on the operations of the NT.
“However, its charitable status does not give it a pass in terms of carrying out its obligations as a landlord, which has been confirmed in case law.
“Farm tenants are more likely to want to work positively with the NT on new ventures if the NT has been fair to those tenants in the past, particularly in respect of its repairing obligations.”
Mr Dunn went on to point out NT tenants were feeling frustrated with the NT’s attempts to pursue an environmental agenda while insisting on a commercial approach to their agreements.
“NT tenants are often keen to work alongside the NT in delivering wider public benefits, but it is not always appreciated by the business managers within the trust that this comes at a cost and tenants are, as a result, unable to pay the sorts of rent which may be achievable in other landlord-tenant situations,” he said.
An NT spokesperson said: “We aim to be a fair and responsible landlord with a good working relationship with our tenants. Should tenants have concerns over farm maintenance issues we would encourage them to contact us so we can prioritise essential work and fulfil our obligations as a landlord.
“The national lockdown inevitably means many projects were put on hold and, as a result, may be taking slightly longer than we would like.
“But we are keen to reassure tenants we will work alongside them to resolve any outstanding works as soon as we are able.”