Tied cottage

Last updated

In the United Kingdom, a tied cottage is typically a dwelling owned by an employer that is rented to an employee: if the employee leaves their job they may have to vacate the property; in this way the employee is tied to their employer. While the term originally applied mainly to cottages, it may be loosely applied to any tied accommodation from a small flat to a large house. The concept is generally associated with agriculture, but may occur in a wide range of occupations.


The concept has been in use at least since the 18th century. There has been considerable debate, particularly in the 20th century, over whether the system is "fair" to occupiers, and a number of laws have been enacted or amended to improve their security of tenure. The concept still exists, though in a substantially different form from the original idea.


Partly as a result of the Enclosure Acts of the 18th and 19th centuries, which denied hitherto free access by working-class people to common land, rural people became more dependent upon paid agricultural work. This was a key theme in Thomas Hardy's novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles . Counterintuitively, the rise of tied accommodation made rural workers less secure. [1]

Tied accommodation became a common practice in 19th and 20th century rural England where the property owner, which might be an estate, a public or private institution or a farmer, could control who lived in the property. Rent was often minimal and considered part of the employee's remuneration or a "perk" of the job. Most large country estates had tied cottages for estate workers and parishes provided houses for incumbent clergy. Later the system extended to council workers, village police, services personnel and other occupations.

The practice benefitted the property owner by providing accommodation to workers close to their place of work, but was open to abuse by using the threat of eviction to control workers' lives or even political affiliations. The benefit to tenants was a certain level of security in the knowledge that they had a place to live as long as they continued working. The advantage remained firmly in the hands of the employer for the best part of two centuries.

20th century

Before World War I farm workers were seen by trades unions as effectively the property of the farmer,[ citation needed ] and tied cottages as a means for employers to hold down wages compared with other industries and to inhibit workers from joining unions. The issue was politicised as early as 1909. There was little change between the wars and in 1948 34% of farm workers were in tied accommodation. In 1976 this had risen to 53%. There followed a political struggle to end the system that was variously called servile, a system to maintain class power, or a relic of feudalism. [2] [3]

A contribution to the decline of the tied cottage system was that fewer farm and estate workers were needed as a result of the rapid increase in mechanisation. In mid-century large numbers of tied houses such as those provided to village policemen or services personnel were sold off [4] to reduce overheads, and council tenants (who may or may not have been council employees) under the "right to buy" movement were permitted to buy their rented properties at a discount.

During a discussion on amendments to the Agriculture Bill in 1970, reference was made to the insecurity of tied tenants who, if they were no longer employed by the owner, could not expect to be automatically rehoused by the local council. The National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers had long campaigned for the abolition of the tied cottage system, supported by the TUC. In 1963 it had been stated that a Labour government "would ensure that no occupant of a tied cottage would be evicted before alternative accommodation had been provided" but the 1970 debate made it clear that this had not happened. However, members recognised that farming practices had changed and the tied accommodation system was not suitable, and legal protection was too weak, but that a six-month pre-eviction suspension period had helped to some extent. It was observed that it would be impossible to run a farm without tied cottages, one reason being that workers looking after stock would need to live very close by their work. [5]

In 1974 a Bill was presented to the House of Commons to abolish the system of tied cottages. [6] The Bill was brought in by Bob Cryer MP in response to appeals from agricultural workers and other tenants of tied accommodation to "provide protection for tenants, yet preserve rights for farmers who can prove genuine need. It will ensure a cast-iron protection for those farm workers who have worked loyally in British agriculture so that they no longer need fear ill-health, injury or old age" and referred to the "evils of the tied cottage system". [7] The Bill did not become law but prompted amendments to some existing laws in the ensuing years.

Sixteen Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees were set up in England under the Rent Agriculture Act 1976 to advise local councils on requests to rehouse former agricultural tenants when cottages were needed for employees. [8]

21st century

In 2001, following changes in the law in the 1970s and 1980s, protection of tenure was relatively secure for tied accommodation occupants; if they stopped working in the sector there was provision for the owner (in effect, landlord) to charge monthly rent at the market rate. [9]

With increasing numbers of people priced out of the housing market in the 21st century, the concept showed signs of being revived. [4]

The Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees in England were closed in 2013. [10] In a review of the modern state of tied accommodation, a Farmers Weekly columnist observed that, while it is complex and its appeal may have been undersold, in modern times it "generates more problems than it solves". [11]

With increasing legal and taxation implications, the issue of tied cottages was still an area of concern in 2014 in respect of farmers creating security of tenure and thus difficulty in evicting workers no longer employed by them. [12]

Agricultural tie

Under planning regulations a property may be built on agricultural land for the purpose of housing agricultural workers. There are conditions attached which need to be fulfilled by any future purchaser of the property. The tie can be lifted if it can be established that there is no longer an agricultural need or that no one has worked in agriculture for 10 years, but breaches of conditions can attract fines. The advantage of an agricultural tie (to the purchaser) is that the property's value will be lower than the current market value. [13]

See also

Related Research Articles

Public housing Residential properties owned by a government

Public housing is a form of housing tenure in which the property is usually owned by a government authority, either central or local.

Tenant farmer

A tenant farmer is one who resides on land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management, while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying amounts of capital and management. Depending on the contract, tenants can make payments to the owner either of a fixed portion of the product, in cash or in a combination. The rights the tenant has over the land, the form, and measures of payment varies across systems. In some systems, the tenant could be evicted at whim ; in others, the landowner and tenant sign a contract for a fixed number of years. In most developed countries today, at least some restrictions are placed on the rights of landlords to evict tenants under normal circumstances.

Sharecropping use of land by a tenant in return for a share of the crops produced

Sharecropping is legal arrangement with regard to agricultural land in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on that land.

Eviction removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord

Eviction is the removal of a tenant from rental property by the landlord. In some jurisdictions it may also involve the removal of persons from premises that were foreclosed by a mortgagee.

Clonmany Village in Ulster, Ireland

Clonmany is a village in north-west Inishowen, in County Donegal, Ireland. The area has many local beauty spots, while the nearby village of Ballyliffin is famous for its golf course. The Urris valley to the west of Clonmany village was the last outpost of the Irish language in Inishowen. In the 19th century, the area was an important location for poitín distillation.

Cottage typically, a small house

A cottage is, typically, a small house. It may carry the connotation of being an old or old-fashioned building. In modern usage, a cottage is usually a modest, often cosy dwelling, typically in a rural or semi-rural location. The cottage orné, often quite large and grand residences built by the nobility, dates back to a movement of "rustic" stylised cottages of the late 18th and early 19th century during the Romantic movement.

The Land Acts were a series of measures to deal with the question of tenancy contracts and peasant proprietorship of land in Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Five such acts were introduced by the government of the United Kingdom between 1870 and 1909. Further acts were introduced by the governments of the Irish Free State after 1922 and more acts were passed for Northern Ireland.

State housing

State housing is a system of public housing in New Zealand, offering low-cost rental housing to residents on low to moderate incomes. Some 69,000 state houses are managed by Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, most of which are owned by the Crown. In excess of 31,000 former state houses exist, which are now privately owned after large-scale sell-offs during recent decades. Since 2014, state housing has been part of a wider social housing system, which also includes privately owned low-cost housing.

In Scotland a factor is a person or firm charged with superintending or managing properties and estates—sometimes where the owner or landlord is unable to or uninterested in attending to such details personally, or in tenements in which several owners of individual flats contribute to the factoring of communal areas.

The Private Rented Sector (PRS) is a classification of United Kingdom housing tenure as described by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, a UK government department that monitors the national housing supply.

Cotter (farmer) Lower-class serf

Cotter, cottier, cottar, Kosatter or Kötter is the German or Scots term for a peasant farmer. Cotters occupied cottages and cultivated small land lots. The word cotter is often employed to translate the cotarius recorded in the Domesday Book, a social class whose exact status has been the subject of some discussion among historians, and is still a matter of doubt. According to Domesday, the cotarii were comparatively few, numbering fewer than seven thousand people. They were scattered unevenly throughout England, located principally in the counties of Southern England. They either cultivated a small plot of land, or worked on the holdings of the villani. Like the villani, among whom they were frequently classed, their economic condition may be described as free in relation to every one except their lord.

Irish Land and Labour Association

The Irish Land and Labour Association (ILLA) was a progressive movement founded in the early 1890s in Munster, Ireland, to organise and pursue political agitation for small tenant farmers' and rural labourers' rights. Its branches also spread into Connacht. The ILLA was known under different names—Land and Labour Association (LLA) or League (LLL). Its branches were active for almost thirty years, and had considerable success in propagating labour ideals before their traditions became the basis for the new labour and trade unions movements, with which they gradually amalgamated.

In the late Roman Empire and the Early Middle Ages a colonus was a tenant farmer. Known collectively as the "colonate", these farmers operated as sharecroppers, paying landowners with a portion of their crops in exchange for use of their farmlands. The coloni's tenant-landlord relationship eventually degraded into one of debt and dependence. As a result, the colonus system became a new type of land tenancy, placing the occupants in a state between freedom and slavery. Colonus system can be considered as predecessor of European feudal serfdom.

<i>Statare</i> agriculture-employed person in Sweden until 1945, mainly paid in kind

Statare were contract-workers in Swedish agriculture who, contrary to other farmhands, were expected to be married, were provided with a simple dwelling for their family, and instead of eating at the servants' table were paid in kind with foodstuff. They were, similarly to most other farmworkers, contracted on an annual basis. The family members' willingness to work, at some places unpaid, was taken for granted. This system became increasingly common during the 19th century, attracted much public critique in the 20th century, and was abolished from November 1, 1945 through a collective bargaining agreement.

Assured tenancy

An assured tenancy is a legal category of residential tenancy to an individual in English land law. Statute affords a tenant under an assured tenancy a degree of security of tenure. A tenant under an assured tenancy may not be evicted without a reasonable ground in the Housing Act 1988 and, where periodic changes in rent are potentially subject to a challenge before a rent assessment committee.

Highland Clearances the mass eviction of tenants from the Scottish Highlands in the 18th and 19th centuries

The Highland Clearances were the evictions of a significant number of tenants in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, mostly in the period 1750 to 1860.

The history of rent control in England and Wales is a part of English land law concerning the development of rent regulation in England and Wales. Controlling the prices that landlords could make their tenants pay formed the main element of rent regulation, and was in place from 1915 until its abolition by the Housing Act 1988.

Rent control in Scotland is based upon the statutory codes relating to private sector residential tenancies. Although not strictly within the private sector, tenancies granted by housing associations, etc., are dealt with as far as is appropriate in this context. Controlling prices, along with security of tenure and oversight by an independent regulator or the courts, is a part of rent regulation.

Public housing in the United Kingdom Subsidised housing programmes of the British government

Public housing provided the majority of rented accommodation in the United Kingdom until 2011 when the number of households in private rental housing surpassed the number in social housing. Houses and flats built for public or social housing use are built by or for local authorities and known as council houses, though since the 1980s the role of non-profit housing associations became more important and subsequently the term "social housing" became more widely used, as technically council housing only refers to housing owned by a local authority, though the terms are largely used interchangeably. Before 1865, housing for the poor was provided solely by the private sector. Council houses were built on council estates, where other amenities, like schools and shops, were often also provided. From the 1950s, blocks of flats and three- or four-storey blocks of maisonettes were widely built, alongside large developments of terraced housing, while the 1960s and the 1970s saw construction of many high-rise tower blocks. Flats and houses were also built in mixed estates.

A pre-regulation terraced house is a type of dwelling constructed before Public Health Act 1875. It is a type of British terraced house at the opposite end of the social scale from the aristocratic townhouse, built as cheap accommodation for the urban poor of the Industrial Revolution. The term usually refers to houses built in the century before the 1875 Act, which imposed a duty on local authorities to regulate housing by the use of byelaws. Subsequently, all byelaw terraced housing was required to meet minimum standards of build quality, ventilation, sanitation and population density. Almost all pre-regulation terraced housing has been demolished through successive waves of slum clearance.


  1. "Disempowerment of the working class: Tess of the d'Urbervilles" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  2. Brass, Tom (2011). Labour Regime Change in the Twenty-First Century: Unfreedom, Capitalism and Primitive Accumulation. BRILL. ISBN   9789004202474 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  3. Danziger, Renée (1988). Political Powerlessness: Agricultural workers in post-war England. Manchester University Press. ISBN   9780719026959 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  4. 1 2 Ross Clark (1 November 2003). "Tied cottage of the 21st century". Telegraph. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  5. "House of Commons debates, 1970" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  6. Abolition of tied cottages. Hansard. 19 June 1974. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  7. Abolition of tied cottages Bill. Hansard. 19 June 1974. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  8. Agricultural Dwelling House Advisory Committees in England (PDF). DEFRA. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  9. Sparkes, Peter (2001). A New Landlord and Tenant. Bloomsbury. ISBN   9781847311726 . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  10. "UK Government: Agricultural Dwellings Housing Advisory Committees" . Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  11. Ian Pigott (11 August 2010). "Tied cottages". Farmers Weekly i-space. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  12. James Stephen (20 August 2014). "Clarity is vital as tied cottages come under tax scrutiny". Western Daily Press. Retrieved 14 December 2014.
  13. "Buying property with an agricultural tie". Country Life. 7 May 2010. Retrieved 14 December 2014.