In the recent case of Hook and Hook v Hawkins [2019] UKUT 147 (LU), the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber) considered the status of a divorced spouse's occupation and whether she had the right to remain in a farm dwelling provided by her ex-husband's employer.

The facts of the case are that the original landowners had allowed the ex-wife (Mrs Hawkins) to remain in a farm dwelling following the divorce and departure of her husband who was a protected tenant.  In 1975 Mr and Mrs Hawkins moved into a farm cottage provided to Mr Hawkins as part of the terms of his employment as a farm worker.  No rent was paid.  

In 1990 Mr and Mrs Hawkins divorced and Mr Hawkins moved away and his employment came to an end.  

Mrs Hawkins was on good terms with her ex husband's employers and undertook some odd jobs on the estate including cleaning and gardening.  She remained in the cottage with her two children.  In 1995, at the employer's request, she moved into another property to make room for another farm worker.  At that point she was asked to pay rent at £200 per month which she did.  

The Tribunal held that Mrs Hawkins did not have a protected occupancy or statutory tenancy under the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 and whilst it would have been possible under the Matrimonial Homes Act 1983 to transfer a statutory tenancy to Mrs Hawkins in divorce proceedings, no such order was made in this case.

This decision is interesting from both a family and property law perspective.  From a family law perspective it is important to safeguard any property interests of a spouse of a farm worker who has protection as an agricultural worker by an order at the time of the divorce.  This case is also a good reminder that the Rent (Agriculture) Act 1976 only protects an agricultural worker whilst they actually occupy the property and these rights terminate when they move away.