Notice Laws and Effect on Tenure Stability

Many states have adopted statutes addressing notice of termination procedures specifically designed for agricultural tenancies.  The purpose of these statutes is to assist in stabilizing agricultural land tenure practices in order to protect the economic interests of the parties, the social structure of rural communities, and the sustainability of the land.  Farm operations depend to a large degree on long term planning.  It is important for tenants to know whether they need to find new land to farm or perhaps a new place to live during the next year.  Further, both the tenants and the land benefit if tenants are assured they will be able to reap the benefits of investments in the land several months or even years later.  The ability to do so, therefore, affects the economic and social structure of the farm family and farming community as well as the sustainability of the land.

Though notice and termination laws provide some protection, the effectiveness of present laws is debatable.  Notice of termination laws vary greatly from state to state, some requiring several months notice with dates established for both notice and termination that coincide with the timing of common farm practices, while others merely rely on notice of two months or less with no consideration for the time of year.  Statutes in some states, such as Iowa, provide that where the parties fail to deliver the statutorily required notice the lease will be renewed for the following year on the same terms.  While such statutes are enacted in large part to protect tenants, they might also expand the use of year to year tenancies, creating little incentive for tenants to farm in a sustainable manner.

The following list provides an examination of a variety of farm lease termination laws.

Relevance for Landlord and Tenant

While the effect of the varying statutes may be debated, it is critical for both landowners and tenants to understand the termination procedures required in their state and for their particular circumstances in order to ensure the rights afforded them by such statutes are not infringed upon, to know the limits of their rights, and to protect the land from continued degradation should the need arise.  For instance, a landowner might ascertain the tenant’s farming practices to be harmful to the property, though the practices might not be deemed to violate the covenant of good husbandry or other more specific lease provisions relating to sustainability.  Thus, without a finding of a breach of an implied or explicit covenant, the landowner’s remedies may be limited (though a breach does not necessarily result in immediate termination).  In such as situation, it is crucial the landlord understand and follow the statutory provisions for termination in order to ensure the property is not subjected to further harm in recurrent years, as well as ensure the tenant’s rights are not violated.

Farm Tenancies Under a Life Estate

The termination of tenancies held under a life estate are also worth examining as states have also developed special rules for termination regarding these situations. Typically, a lease under a life estate is terminated at the death of the life tenant. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. The states have taken a varied approach to the exceptions and the notice requirements in such situations. It is important for tenants, landlords, and remaindermen to understand the rights and obligations created by state law regarding a tenancy under a life estate.