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First hand advice for applying for a tenancy

Katy explains the basics and offers tips and advice for applying for a farm.


Any new tenancies offered will be let as Farm Business Tenancies (FBTs), governed by the Agricultural Tenancies Act 1995.


They are normally let for fixed terms and there is no guarantee a further term will be granted at the end of the fixed term.


It is important for all applicants to get advice on the legalities of the tenancy they are applying for.


When looking for opportunities, I recommend you do not limit yourself to one area. Where to look:

  • Farming press.
  • Ask land agents and County Councils - some have waiting lists.
  • TFA members can access the organisation’s website - tenancies are advertised.

Tips for viewing day

  • Make the most of it by walking around, assessing land and buildings and getting ‘a good feel’ for the place
  • Look smart and create good, first impressions.
  • Be polite and ask questions to develop a relationship with the agent
  • Try to stand out from the crowd
  • Glean as much information as you can from either the outgoing tenant or neighbouring farmers



Check your first impressions by going back for a second viewing. Think about what farming system you will adopt and what suits the farm.


Ask yourself what improvements will you need to make and how much they might cost. Take a friend or a professional to talk through these matters


Tips for preparation of tender

  • Before applying, understand your landlord’s motives and objectives for owning the farm and letting it out
  • Do your skills and knowledge match what the landlord is looking for?

Organisations such as the National Trust and County Councils generally look more favourably on an applicant who will deliver its wider objectives such as commitment to enhancing the natural environment or has an interest in educational visits and public access

  • Give yourself time to prepare the business plan and tender documentation - it will take weeks to prepare a well thought out tender

Your tender should be based on the information you have about the farm (mostly gathered on viewing days and from the particulars). If a draft tenancy is available, familiarise yourself with its terms.


You will need to decide on an appropriate farm business proposition which you can demonstrate will succeed and suit the farm and is permitted within the terms of the tenancy.


You may be required to prepare:

  • A budget
  • A cash flow
  • A balance sheet

These are to demonstrate the viability of the business and show your current assets and how you would finance taking over the farm and any desirable improvements you intend to make. These skills come with practice. Consider discussing this with a TFA adviser (if you are a member) or a professional like a chartered surveyor, to help you put your application together.


However, it is important at the same time, to take ownership of your business plan and budgets. Present the information in a clear and logical way; your figures will have to stand scrutiny and questioning. While it is recognised they will be no more than best guesses, they will reflect your approach and judgement


How much to tender?

  • Decide on a rent which is sustainable
  • Do not over-estimate the rental value, it might win the farm, but leave a huge financial burden and failing business



The TFA has a rent databank full of comparable rents, so look at the pattern of rents in your area.


When the landlord’s agent has received all tenders, a shortlist would normally be prepared and the landlord will make the final choice, following a formal interview


If you are successful

  • The landlord will provide a written FBT agreement
  • Before signing, check it contains the terms you expected
  • Preferably seek advice (TFA adviser or a professional)
  • If you are thinking about diversification make sure it is permitted within the terms



Make sure you think about all costs and work out what you are actually paying for. Be realistic. Improvements and repairs will cost you time and money and until they are done, they may hold you back


If you are unsuccessful

  • Ask for feedback, keep trying
  • Lettings are competitive and not for everyone
  • Do not rule out other options such as joint ventures, contract farming and share farming arrangements

TFA advice

The Tenant Farmers Association is happy to assist with applications. There is a £75 Associate Membership package for those who are looking for a farm. It offers 15 months for the price of 12 and includes unlimited advice and access to the member’s area of the website (tenancy opportunities, template letters and briefing notes on issues affecting agriculture).


Contact 0118 930 6130, quoting FGAM12.


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