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I am occasionally asked whether or not giving a lease to someone for equestrian purposes creates an agricultural tenancy and I thought that it would be worthwhile explaining the legal position. Many landlords are concerned about granting a lease for these purposes thinking that it will give the tenant security of tenure and some equestrian tenants believe that they have an agricultural lease with all of the rights which that carries with it.

The first point to make is that since 28th November 2003 it has been impossible in law to create a fully secure agricultural tenancy over land unless the lease is in writing, explicitly states that it is to be a traditional tenancy governed by the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991 and the landlord and tenant sign it before the tenant takes entry to the land.

Secondly, an agricultural lease is a lease of land used for the purposes of agriculture. Agriculture is defined for the purposes of both the 1991 Act and the Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003, which regulates limited duration tenancies and short limited duration tenancies, as including horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming, livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes.

Some people have latched on to the reference to livestock breeding and keeping and the use of the land as grazing land as meaning that land used for equestrian purposes does therefore fall within the definition of agriculture. However, livestock is defined for the purposes of the Acts as being any creature kept for the production of food, wool, skins or fur, or for the purpose of its use in the farming of land.

That being so, letting land to a tenant for equestrian use will not create an agricultural tenancy because horses are not livestock unless perhaps they are being used as plough horses or are being kept for human consumption, neither of which is very likely in modern day Scotland!

The short answer to the question posed at the beginning of this article therefore is that equestrian leases are not agricultural leases and do not carry with them the rights which an agricultural tenant would have under an agricultural lease. Such leases would in fact be ordinary commercial leases and the rights of the landlord and tenant would be as specified within the lease itself.

Chambers UK 2018

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