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Top tips when providing farm accommodation

Moving Day (1 June) has been and gone which means that not only do the cows have new homes, many employees will also have new accommodation on farm. Understanding your rights and obligations when providing, or receiving, farm accommodation is crucial to a smooth working relationship.

On farm accommodation that is provided in connection with employment is governed by a Service Tenancy – the tenancy applies for so long as the person is in the role. While Service Tenancies may have different notice periods or conditions, they are still governed by the Residential Tenancies Act

Farm owners who are providing accommodation are required to follow the specific legal obligations under the Act, including complying with healthy home standards and lodging a bond with Tenancy Services.

Standards for worker’s accommodation are also covered by the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015.  The Act provides that a farm owner is a “Person Conducting Business or Undertaking” (a “PCBU”).   If a PCBU provides accommodation they own, manage or control to their workers (where occupancy is necessary for work purposes because other accommodation is not reasonably available), they must, so far as is reasonably practicable, maintain the accommodation so that workers are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from the accommodation. 

If you are offering accommodation for your employees, some top tips are:

  1. Inspect the accommodation and consider what needs improving or replacing to ensure the house is warm, safe and dry. This will include making sure there is appropriate insulation, ventilation and smoke alarms in the property;  

  2. Ensure the accommodation is accurately described when advertising the position;

  3. Make sure the Service Tenancy is recorded - either as part of the Employment Agreement or as a separate tenancy document;

  4. Make sure a property inspection is carried out and agreed to by both parties before the tenancy starts. This creates an important record for assessing the condition of the property at the end of the tenancy;

  5. If issues arise during the tenancy, seek advice at an early stage to avoid issues arising under the Tenancy Agreement, the Employment Agreement, or both;

  6. Clearly identify if other people are allowed to also stay at the accommodation and, if so, make sure that the terms of their occupation are clear. For example, are they required to also leave if the employed tenant leaves?

  7. Finally, consider whether you would be happy to live in the accommodation being offered. If you wouldn’t, you may need to consider whether it’s fair to expect your employees to.

Need help?

If you are uncertain about whether your accommodation is suitable, need a Service Tenancy Agreement drafted or would like more information on rural housing requirements in general, contact the team at Gallie Miles.

About the author - Rachel Cooper, Senior Solicitor