Tenancy Reforms

However successful the first step of the agrarian reform turned out to be in achieving its objective of eliminating functionless revenue collectors, the efforts to improve the situation of the majority of the tenants proved to be ineffectual. The objective of the tenancy reform laws was to establish and strengthen the tenants' rights. To that end, a minimum leasing period of 5 to 10 years was introduced, and eviction was only allowed on the basis of specific reasons. Sub-leasing was forbidden and, in the case of eviction, the tenant was to be paid compensation for his investments. Finally, the tenant was granted the right to purchase the land he cultivated. Sub-tenants who had cultivated a plot of land for already more than 12 years gained the status of occupancy tenants and were, thus, protected against eviction. The laws foresaw a restriction of the rent to one third to one sixth of the gross harvest, and payment of the land tax was shifted to the landlord.

These measures proved to be an extremely serious encroachment on the lessors' rights. This is why it became indispensable to offer them an alternative in way of compensation. Before the laws were enforced, they were granted the right to give notice in case they wanted to cultivate the land themselves. Since the term "self cultivation" was not clearly defined and was finally understood as "supervision of cultivation," this meant a set back for the tenants. Many of them were dismissed and reemployed as agricultural labourers or sharecroppers. It was possible to reemploy them as sharecroppers because the many types of sharecropping were not defined as tenancy in the laws. Thus, a large number of tenants lost their rights as a result of the laws passed to improve their condition.

The other measures did not prove to be very successful either. The poor administration which, moreover, was more on the side of the landlords on account of its origin, simply could not cope with the tasks of the tenancy reform. Here, it was not only a question of a non-recurring control of the lease contracts, but of the permanent enforcement of the regulations as well. It proved to be particularly disadvantageous that the law had not given any aid to the administration by means of tenants' associations which would have had to be founded and which could have examined specific cases at the local level. Besides, the legal measures were sometimes very unrealistic. If the usual rent has, for a long time, amounted to more than 50% of the gross yields, the prospects of imposing, by law, rents of 16% to 33% are negligible. The other measures are also unfavourable to the conditions on the tenancy market. If there is a great demand and a limited supply, some of the potential tenants will always be prepared to make to the landlords concessions which infringe the law.

Altogether, it can be ascertained that tenancy laws in the two countries have not meant much success for the tenants. The majority of the sharecroppers was not included in the measures at all and, of the occupancy tenants, many lost their status, and only a few gained anything at all.