The Law and Your Allotment
After the heavy snow in March and record high temperatures this month, the weather has now settled into typical spring weather. Gardeners and allotment holders alike will be hard at work weeding, digging and planning for the months to come. Many allotment holders have an allotment letting agreement with the allotment provider. In this article we give an overview of allotment tenancy agreements and the general aspects of leasing an allotment.
Allotment Tenancy Agreement
Allotment letting agreements are a form of tenancy agreement. The tenancy agreement is a legally binding document setting out the rights and responsibilities of the plot holder. Common clauses include rent, duration of the lease and termination, undertakings of the allotment holder as well as permissible activities, the building of structures and subletting issues.
Allotment holders are required to pay rent, which the law says should be at such a rate ‘as a tenant may reasonably be expected to pay for the land’.
The yearly rent can vary widely depending on the size of the plot, the facilities provided and whether the land is privately or publically owned. The Allotments Act 1950 says that the rent must be charged at a 'reasonable rate' but does not set an actual figure. In all cases, the landlord is responsible for the payment of water rates and general maintenance.
A full-sized plot is traditionally around 250 square metres (10 rods by 10 rods). Many plots are half size or even less, due to the high demand for allotments.
Duration of lease and ending the tenancy
Allotments are usually leased for the period of one year, although they can be renewed indefinitely.
The Allotments Act 1922 provided allotment holders with some security of tenure by setting out specific periods of notice for ending a tenancy. Landlords could only end an allotment garden tenancy by giving the allotment holder a minimum of six months’ notice. This was increased to 12 months by the Allotments Act 1950. The landlord may end the tenancy by giving one month’s notice where the allotment holder has breached any of the conditions of the tenancy agreement.
The tenancy agreement will set out the obligations of the allotment holder and what they can or cannot do. Obligations include:
- keeping the plot free of weeds and keeping it in good condition;
- not to use the allotment for the purpose of any trade or business;
- not to cause any nuisance or annoyance to the occupiers of other allotments or obstruct any path used by the other occupiers of surrounding allotments;
- not to sublet the plot without the written consent of the landlord;
- not to build any structures without the written consent of the landlord.
Many allotment tenancy agreements have a 'non-cultivation' clause that says you must work and cultivate your plot regularly. If you don’t cultivate then you stand to have your tenancy agreement terminated and you will lose the plot.
Keeping animals on allotments
Until 1950 there were restrictions on keeping hens and rabbits on allotments but these were abolished by the Allotments Act 1950. The Act does not refer to cockerels but to hens only. Hens and rabbits are permitted provided that they are not prejudicial to health or a nuisance and do not affect the operation of any other law e.g. animal welfare legislation. The Act also provides that hens and rabbits should not be kept by way of trade or business i.e. eggs laid on the allotment cannot be sold.
You might also be able to keep other animals such as pigs, goats, geese, pigeons, turkeys or bees on your allotment, subject to the landlord’s permission. Check your allotment tenancy agreement.
How do I find an allotment?
Most allotments are run by local authorities ('statutory’ allotments). If you live in England or Wales you can use the Apply for an allotment link as a starting point to find the relevant council website. If you already know where the allotment site is then you could always talk to existing plot holders and ask for contact details of the land owner. You may well have to put your name on a waiting list.
You might also be able to find a private allotment in local magazines or advertised on various allotment websites such as the National Allotment Society.
The Small Holdings and Allotments Act 1908 says that all local authorities outside inner London have a duty to provide allotments. If your council does not provide an allotment then you can embark upon the bureaucratic process of exerting this statutory right – but don’t expect it to be either a quick or easy process.
Happy gardening and may your thumbs always be green!