Bail à ferme

In the Walloon Region, 70% of the 740,000 hectares of agricultural land are farmed on a rental basis. Several thousand private and public owners are therefore directly concerned by the legislation on farm leases.

What is a farm lease?

A farm lease is the main framework for contractual relations between a farmer (the lessee) and a private or public owner of agricultural land or buildings (the lessor). This contract gives the farmer the right to use the rented land for his agricultural activity.

Farm lease legislation brought up to date

This legislation, which dates back to 1969 and was last amended in 1988, had been outdated for several years and was subject to a great deal of criticism from both owners and operators. Indeed, the reality on the ground has evolved and a need for updating was felt.

On 1 January 2020, a new reform came into force. The aim of this reform is not only to take into account the changing needs of lessors and lessees, but also to revitalise and consolidate their relationship. It also aims to encourage landlords not to turn away and to facilitate access to land for young farmers.

Several improvements have been made to this reform

  • The writing of a lease and its compulsory registration, thus guaranteeing a start and end date of the contract.
  • The introduction of a prior inventory of fixtures to improve rental relations.
  • The end of the right of pre-emption for farmers over 67 years old, receiving a retirement pension and without a serious buyer.
  • Effective sanctions in case of unauthorised subletting.
  • An end to abusive preferential transfers.
  • Mandatory notification of plot exchanges.
  • Leave to sell part of the leased plot to deal with a problematic personal situation of the lessor.
  • Notice to the retired lessee.

For lessees and lessors engaged in an oral farm lease before 2020, there is a transitional period until 31 December 2024 to allow them to integrate the new written reform.

Model farm lease agreements for private and public landlords

In November 2021, the Belgian Minister of Agriculture, Willy Borsus, announced the availability of model farm lease contracts for private and public owners.

Through these, the Walloon government wishes to support landlords by proposing tools and thus encourage them to use the written form for the conclusion, modification or renewal of a lease.

Model inventory of fixtures and leases

Several models are available and are indicative, the elements contained in them not being exhaustive. Within the legal framework, both parties can always use their own model.

Model letters relating to notifications of transfers, discharges, end of lease and others are available on the Walloon agriculture portal.