Farmers warned they must register land leases online
Concerns raised over 'excessive' level of detail required to satisfy property register obligations
Thousands of farmers have been warned that they are legally obliged to register leases online as part of a move to bring more transparency into the letting market.
However, concerns have been raised that the "excessive" level of detail required will mean people will be able to pinpoint what individual farmers are paying for their leased land.
A large-scale awareness campaign has been launched by the Property Services Regulatory Authority (PSRA) to warn farmers who have taken out a lease on land that they must register it online within 30 days.
"The aim of the registration of these leases is to give transparency to what the real price of leases is, not only in agriculture but in businesses across the board," said the IFA's business chair Martin Stapleton.
"The difficulty that we have is there is no need to name the townland to give transparency.
"We would have liked it identified at district electoral division or even better county level," he added, saying this would protect personal information for individual farmers.
It is expected that there will be keen interest in the prices being paid for leased land in the key dairy farming areas, where competition among farmers for land has seen prices soar.
Details of all the leases, including addresses, rent, date and term of the lease, will be available for public viewing on the commercial leases register on the PSRA website.
The name of the farmer leasing the land is not included on the website, but farm bodies warn that the property will be easily identifiable from the address and key information.
Over 13,000 out of 22,000 letters have been issued by the PSRA so far to all commercial lease tenants, including on land, buildings and shop units.
A spokesman said they are carrying out an awareness campaign to make tenants aware of their obligations to register a commercial lease.
The PSRA also intend to pursue the logging of expired leases that were taken out since 2012.
A PSRA spokesman said it ensures transparency in the area.
"Widespread compliance will ensure there is more accurate published information which will in turn provide a more level playing field for existing and prospective commercial tenants," he said.
"Sensitive information such as the personal details of the tenant and the landlord are not included in the published register and there is no charge for submitting the form."
Over 8,300 leases have been registered since 2012 - with 1,406 returned by tenants so far this year.
Many farmers who have taken out leases on land were unaware of their legal requirements under the 2011 Property Services (Regulation) Act, with a penalty of up to €5,000 upon conviction in the district court.
Blarney auctioneer Dan Fleming believes that landowners and tenants won't like it as it makes public what was agreed privately.
"Farmers are very private people," he added.
Auctioneer Stephen Barry feels that putting the details of land leases online is releasing commercially sensitive material into the public arena and questions the benefits of it.
"If a tenant has 1,000ac of tillage leased, his competitors and/or his bank or merchant will be able to put all that information together and make a business call on what should be private information," he said.
ICMSA deputy president Lorcan McCabe questioned the need for the reporting of such detail, describing it as "clearly excessive".
Mr McCabe said: “We would question the need for revealing this level of private and personal information regarding the people involved.
“While we accept that people’s names are not published, the reality is that in a rural locality people will know the individuals and parties involved.” Cork land agent Mike Brady said they have offered to register the leases for lessees for some time and he feels it will bring clarity on leases.
“It is only transparency — it will sort out a lot of the pub talk on what places are renting for.”
Letters are being sent out to farmers by the PSRA which is cross checking records with the e-stamping section of the Revenue Commissioners. It warns the lease must be registered by the person who took the lease out on the land from the landlord within 30 days of receiving the letter.
All tenants who have entered into leases since April 2012 are required to complete the return online and provide the authority with details including liability for insurance, rent reviews and any break clauses in the lease.
For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App