Why a written lease?
63% of farmland rentals in Ontario are based on nothing more than a handshake. Some might say that creating a written lease will take time and money, or give the impression of mutual distrust. But in reality, the opposite is true.
They say that good fences make good neighbours and having a written lease can actually strengthen the relationship between you and your landlord. The discussion that goes into writing the lease helps you both come to a mutual understanding, instead of basing the agreement on assumptions. If an issue ever did arise, a written agreement can protect both parties and will make it easier and more cost-effective to settle any dispute or misunderstanding.
As a farmer, you want long term security in order that you can build up soil health and yield and in the same way, your landlord probably doesn’t want the hassle of finding a new renter every few years. Having a written lease that creates long-term security is a win-win, and not only for you and your landlord, but for the environment as well.
One farmer tells a story of land he had been renting from a widowed lady for years. He brought her over extra hay bales for her sheep and stayed for a nice chat every so often. He agreed to undertake massive improvements on the land in return for three years of free rent and both parties signed a handwritten agreement. The farmer went to work, cleaning out old fence rows and amending the soil; he put over $60,000 worth into her property. But when the woman was struck by a car on her evening walk the next spring, the agreement fell to pieces. Her children argued that the farmer had forged the document and his own lawyer admitted that it would be very costly to defend the handwritten agreement. In the end, he walked away from the ordeal and the woman’s children now rent out that land to the highest bidder.