Written farm leases: What are the benefits?

Traditionally, farm leases have been oral rather than written. Is there a general feeling that a written lease implies a lack of trust in the other party? Is it widely known that a lease for a period longer than one year is required to be in writing?

Written leases can be beneficial to both parties, even if they have been in a lease arrangement for many years.  One of the biggest benefits of a written lease is that it provides a clear record of what was agreed to. After many years of oral leases, the parties may have a different recall of the lease agreement.

Some of the advantages of a written lease agreement include:

1. It encourages a more detailed agreement, which helps both parties to have a better understanding of the lease terms;

2. It allows for decisions to be made at the beginning of the lease, which can help prevent confusion and disputes in the future;

3. It protects the tenant if the landowner sells the property during the lease term;

4. It provides information for heirs should one of the parties die during the lease term.

There are form leases available that can be filled out or the landowner can talk to a licensed attorney to have a lease drafted. Iowa State University Extension has several form leases available at http://www.extension.iastate.edu/agdm/wdleasing.html.

Once participating parties have a written lease, they can add provisions, such as a conservation provision. One easy way to include conservation in a lease agreement is to attach the NRCS conservation plan. Those who have an interest in updating their conservation plan to attach to a new or existing farm lease are asked to contact Sara Berges at the Allamakee County Soil and Water Conservation District at 563-568-2246, ext. 3 or at sara.berges@ia.nacdnet.net.