Mar 2 2017
Scottish Tenant Farmers Association
28th February 2017
AMNESTY A TESTING GROUND FOR LANDLORD/TENANT RELATIONSHIPS
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has commended Scottish Lands and Estates’ statement last weekend that its members are wholly committed to make the amnesty on tenant improvements work ‘well and fairly’. SL&E have also sought to clarify its position regarding tenant improvements to farmhouses.
In response to SL&E’s statement, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We obviously welcome this signal that landlords are ready to play their part in the amnesty on tenant’s improvements. This amnesty presents tenant farmers with an opportunity to remedy deficiencies in paperwork which would otherwise have rendered many of their improvements to the farm ineligible for end of tenancy compensation.
“The amnesty process will, no doubt be complicated. Although the intention is clear, some of the legislation is confusing and open to different interpretations, such as the treatment of improvements to farmhouses and cottages and the notion of what is “fair and equitable”.
“Housing under an agricultural lease is exempt from the Housing Acts and as landlords are under no obligation to bring housing up to acceptable standards they have traditionally been reluctant to invest in farmhouses. Consequently improvements have invariably been carried out by tenants over the years and it is only right and proper that they should receive compensation at waygo.
“There are a number of grey areas around some aspects of the amnesty and STFA will be calling on the new Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, to work with stakeholder organisations to find common agreement on resolving differing interpretations. STFA has already recommended the Land Commissioner and TFC approach the Land Court to explore ways of determining disagreements without embarking upon an expensive court case.
“The amnesty kicks off in earnest on 13th June and STFA is urging tenants to make an early start in preparing for it by checking leases and looking through past paperwork so they can substantiate the notices they will be serving. In doing so, tenants should remember to detail improvements they have made to the farm which will not be eligible for compensation, but which must be taken into account in rent reviews – an important consideration with changes to the rent test imminent.
“Many tenants, especially those undergoing a rent review have already embarked on the process of registering improvements and fixtures. There is, of course no reason why landlords and tenants should not agree to recognise improvements before the legislation is activated. Andrew Thin, the government’s independent adviser has some useful guidance on the government website.
“The amnesty for tenants’ improvements will be an important testing ground for future landlord/tenant relationships. If the process is to go smoothly it will require co-operation, understanding and goodwill from all sides. STFA will play its part in making tenants aware of the amnesty, providing them with information on how to go about it and ensuring they are adequately prepared. We hope that all landlords will share the commitment shown by their leadership and make the amnesty a success.”