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IMPORTANT ROLE FOR TENANT FARMERS IN HELPING SHAPE FUTURE POLICY

IMPORTANT ROLE FOR TENANT FARMERS IN HELPING SHAPE FUTURE POLICY

 

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

 26th August 2021

 

IMPORTANT ROLE FOR TENANT FARMERS IN HELPING SHAPE FUTURE POLICY

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) welcomes yesterday’s launch of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) and the publication of the Scottish Government’s consultation on “Agricultural Transition in Scotland” to deliver the Government’s commitment to build on the work of the Farmer Led Groups and other initiatives such as Farming for 1.5 Degrees.

Doug Bell, STFA’s new Managing Director commented:

“STFA is looking forward to engaging with the Scottish Government, the ARIOB and other stakeholders to represent our members and the tenanted sector in general in delivering a new future for rural Scotland.

“The transition towards a new sustainable farming policy will present the tenanted sector with some unique challenges. The consultation document acknowledges that ‘concerns were raised in the tenanted sector of land use change being potentially imposed on tenants who might not then benefit from any of the financial benefits that might be available’. However, the impacts of policy change on those renting farmland, are potentially much more wide-ranging in terms eligibility for, and access to, whatever new measures are introduced.

“STFA would have liked to have seen tenants have a stronger sectoral interest represented on the ARIOB, but welcome the diverse and wide-ranging farming, geographical and environmental experience and expertise of board members and look forward to working with them over the coming months.

“The tenanted sector encompasses nearly a quarter of Scotland’s agricultural land the role tenant farmers can play in achieving the objective of sustainable food production while addressing the climate change and bio-diversity agendas must not be under-estimated or constrained.

 

For further comment contact:

Doug Bell:                      07803 222376

Christopher Nicholson: 01988 500423

STFA appoints Douglas Bell as new Managing Director

STFA appoints Douglas Bell as new Managing Director

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

10th August 2021

STFA appoints Douglas Bell as new Managing Director

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has appointed Douglas Bell as its new Managing Director to succeed Angus McCall who will step down later this year. Doug is well known and respected within Scottish farming circles following roles with Quality Meat Scotland and SAC Consulting.

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “We are very pleased to welcome Doug to the STFA team. His appointment comes at a critical time for Scottish farming. Within the next few years we will see the development of new agricultural policy to replace the former CAP framework, and it is vital that measures introduced are feasible and fair for the tenanted sector to allow tenants to compete on a level playing field with owner occupiers. The nature of farming is likely to change, with more emphasis on carbon, the environment, and biodiversity, and more financial reliance on diversified incomes.   These are all big challenges for tenants operating under restrictive agricultural leases. Tenants farm a quarter of agricultural land in Scotland and they must be able to play their part. Doug brings with him decades of valuable experience working through previous CAP reforms with farmers, government and stakeholders and is ideally placed to steer us though the changes ahead.”

Following his appointment Douglas Bell said: “I am delighted to be taking up my position with STFA. Brexit, coupled with pressures to address climate change and the environment, means our industry is very much at a crossroads. As new agricultural policy is developed it is crucial that tenant farmers have a strong and influential voice to ensure their businesses are not impacted disproportionately. As policy reforms are brought forward, STFA will have a key role to play representing the interests of its members and the tenanted sector in general.”

Angus McCall, STFA’s first Chairman and a founding member of the Association back in 2004 said: “I am delighted that Doug has taken up the role as managing director for STFA. With his background and experience, he is the ideal candidate to steer us through the challenges ahead facing tenant farmers. He is well known amongst our membership from his work with QMS and SAC Consulting, indeed he has already been on many of their farms in the past. Doug is also a hands-on beef and sheep farmer as a partner in his family farming business, an experience which will be valued by tenants seeking good practical advice.

 

For further information contact:

Christopher Nicholson, 07730 940193

Angus McCall, 07767 756840

Douglas Bell, 07803 222376

 

For a photograph of Doug Bell please email stfa@tfascotland.org.uk

TENANT FARMERS MUST NOT BE LEFT BEHIND IN FUTURE POLICY CHANGES

TENANT FARMERS MUST NOT BE LEFT BEHIND IN FUTURE POLICY CHANGES

 

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

21st July 2021

TENANT FARMERS MUST NOT BE LEFT BEHIND IN FUTURE POLICY CHANGES

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed this week’s publication of the report from the“Farming for 1.5: From here to 2045 inquiry by an independent panel of farmers, scientists and environmentalists and co-chaired by Nigel Miller. The inquiry, initiated two years ago by NFU Scotland and Nourish Scotland provides a road map for agriculture’s transition to net zero and is additional to Fergus Ewing’s farmer led groups which have now published blueprints for the future of the arable, beef, dairy and hill sectors.

The final Farming for 1.5 Degrees report has taken a common-sense approach to the climate change challenge in recommending ways of reducing emissions whilst maintaining food production and is largely complementary to the work of the farmer led groups. Measures such as on farm tree planting, investment in renewables, investment in energy efficient processes, and taking a long-term view to improve soil health and soil carbon are common features of both.

However, STFA’s chairman, Christopher Nicholson has warned that unless action is taken the tenanted sector will be disenfranchised from being able to participate in many of the recommendations of the enquiry due to the restrictive nature of their leases.

“Unfortunately, it is noticeable that apart from of the farmer led hill farming group, none of the reports to date discuss the feasibility of their proposals for the tenanted sector which covers nearly a quarter of agricultural land in Scotland. It is high time that our politicians and policy makers recognised that there are a number of obstacles facing the tenant farmers which must be addressed if we are to see a level playing field between owner occupiers and tenants with nobody left behind.

“Many of these proposals will be a challenge for farm tenants who are governed by tenancy legislation developed over the last 150 traditionally focusing on food production and the maintenance of agricultural productivity. Non-agricultural diversifications, including tree planting and environmental measures, don’t sit well with existing tenancy legislation. Although there have been some changes to tenancy law aimed at permitting tree planting and other diversifications, the experience of the last two decades shows that there are still obstacles to diversification for farm tenants.

“STFA is concerned new entrants and tenants on short-term leases will be excluded from many of these proposals in an era where the emphasis on land use will inevitably shift away from agricultural production towards long term environmental and conservation measures. As any farmer will know, improving soil health and increasing soil carbon are long term operations over decades and in many cases require significant on farm investment. A tenant with short term lets is unlikely to make that level of commitment and investment.

“The risks for the tenanted sector are twofold: firstly, tenants may not be able to benefit from the new environmental and climate mitigating proposals. Countering this may require changes to tenancy legislation to allow the move away from purely agricultural production, and all future policy should be feasibility tested for the tenanted sector. Secondly, some of the proposals, eg re-wilding and forestry, may prove more attractive for a landlord than having an agricultural tenant, especially on the more upland areas, the traditional route into farming for new blood. This risk could be mitigated by ensuring a robust link between future support and continued agricultural activity.

“More consideration is required of the effects of tree planting targets on the tenanted sector. Current fiscal and subsidy support make commercial afforestation an attractive option for landlords who take land out of the tenanted sector for planting and deny new blood the traditional upland route into farming.

“The previous Scottish Government promised a level playing field for tenant farmers, to allow equal access to benefit from future policy for both tenants and owner occupiers. That is a reassuring approach, and we are pleased that Farming for 1.5 degrees panel have included our concerns in their Final Report, but further thought is required to consider the feasibility of new policy for the tenanted sector.

“The widely expected Agriculture Bill which will lay down new policy to replace the CAP must be tested to ensure fair access for tenants, and any tenancy legislation changes required to remove restrictions should be included in the Bill.”

 

For further comment contact:

Christopher Nicholson:                  01988 500423

Angus McCall:                                  07767 756840

 

 

 

 

LAND COURT JUSTICE MUST BE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO TENANT FARMERS

LAND COURT JUSTICE MUST BE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO TENANT FARMERS

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

8th June 2021

 

LAND COURT JUSTICE MUST BE MORE ACCESSIBLE TO TENANT FARMERS

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) has welcomed today’s publication of analysis of the Consultation on the Future of the Scottish Land Court and the Lands Tribunal for Scotland. The Scottish Government were consulting on various issues relating to the Scottish Land Court and the Lands Tribunal and whether the two bodies should be amalgamated and, if so, whether the resultant body should be a court or a tribunal. The consultation also sought views on the allocation of expenses following Land Tribunal hearings and Land Court rural payment appeals and whether or not the current long-established principle of expenses following success raised access to justice issues and should be amended.

Commenting on the consultation, STFA Chairman, Christopher Nicholson said: “We are heartened that this consultation has agreed with STFA that the present power of the Land Court to award expenses against unsuccessful appellants in rural payment appeals operates as a barrier to justice. These hearings should be either conducted on the basis of each side paying its own expenses or capped at a reasonable level which should deter vexatious appeals but should not act as a deterrent for genuine appellants.

“However, the “winner takes all” principle raises more widespread concerns in situations where there is usually an imbalance of resources between parties. It undoubtedly also acts as a significant barrier to justice for the majority of tenants seeking fair play in a dispute with their landlord, particularly where the dispute is over straight-forward questions regarding farm rent and other valuation issues, such as compensation for improvements.

“STFA believes that with regard to fairness and access to justice, account must also be taken of the way in which expenses are currently awarded following the resolution of disputes between landlords and tenants. This consultation has noted that the Land Court was originally established to protect tenants’ rights and indeed the cost of referral to the Land Court in itself does not present a financial barrier. Agricultural law and landlord tenant disputes have become increasingly complex over the last few decades, and consequently, both parties have tended to engage specialist legal advice, inevitably leading to an arms race favouring the side with the deepest pocket as litigants’ legal teams tool up with advocates and other expensive technical advisers.

“Not only does the practice of awarding expenses against the loser operate as a barrier to justice in rural payment appeals, but also in landlord/tenant disputes. In many landlord/tenant disputes such as rent reviews, individuals may have the necessary experience and expertise to argue the case themselves but are deterred from doing so because of the fear of having landlord’s expenses awarded against them.

“STFA hopes that this consultation will become a catalyst for Land Court reform. The tenanted sector now has comprehensive guidance and codes of practice from the Tenant Farming Commissioner. The Court should be taking account of compliance to these codes and reflecting non-compliance in any apportionment of expenses. Justice must become affordable and expenses brought under control either by the introduction of a statutory cap on awards of expenses – so that appellants would know it advance what their maximum exposure to expenses was – or a discretion to the Court to limit awards in appropriate cases.”

 

STFA WELCOMES PARLIAMENT’S APPROVAL OF RELINQUISHMENT AND ASSIGNATION

STFA WELCOMES PARLIAMENT’S APPROVAL OF RELINQUISHMENT AND ASSIGNATION

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

27th January 2021

STFA WELCOMES APPROVAL OF RELINQUISHMENT AND ASSIGNATION

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the news today that the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee of the Scottish Parliament has approved all 3 SSIs to enact the Relinquishment and Assignation provisions in the Land Reform Act 2016. The new provisions will be ready for use from the 28th February.

Tenants wishing to retire now have a new statutory right to realise value for their tenancies and exit farming a time of their choosing with the prospect of a retirement package. The provisions enable an existing tenant to relinquish the tenancy on payment by the landlord of a statutory valuation based on the value of the tenancy and the tenant’s improvements.  Where the landlord does not wish to pay the tenant the statutory valuation to relinquish the tenancy, the tenant can assign it for value to a new entrant or progressing farmer.

Commenting on today’s decision by the REC Committee, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said:

“The tenanted sector will be delighted that, after a long and drawn-out consultation and legal examination, tenants wishing to retire and move on, now have the right to an exit route from farming which will provide them with an enhanced value for their tenancy above traditional statutory waygo compensation. In some cases the landlord will prefer to decline the relinquishment and let the tenant assign his lease to either a new entrant or a progressing farmer. This will create new opportunities and help open up the tenanted sector.

“STFA is aware that there are a number of tenants who have been waiting for years to relinquish their tenancies but we would caution them not to be too hasty, but to plan ahead and to take account of the implications of relinquishment and assignation such as taxation and the tight time scales laid out in the statutory process. The valuation is to be completed within an 8 week period and tenants must ensure that they are able to supply the valuer with all the necessary facts and figures, completion of an amnesty agreement or an agreed list of improvements will be essential in this regard.

“STFA is encouraging tenants wishing to retire to make an informal approach to their landlords before serving relinquishment notices and triggering the statutory process.   A number of informal relinquishments and assignations have already taken place over the past few years and there are a number of agents who are experienced in negotiating fair end of tenancy settlements with a willing landlord. Some landlords have been unwilling to enter into informal discussions, but this may change now that the statutory legislation is in place, we believe that most relinquishment and assignation agreements will take place through informal negotiation but guided by the statutory process

“The Tenant Farming Commissioner is in the process of drawing up detailed guidance on relinquishment and assignation, he is appointing a specialist valuers panel and valuation guidance is being drawn up and will available before the end of February when relinquishment and assignation provisions come into force.”

 

 

 

TENANTS STILL INVOLVED AMNESTY DISCUSSIONS MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

TENANTS STILL INVOLVED AMNESTY DISCUSSIONS MUST TAKE IMMEDIATE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

27th January 2021

 

STFA URGES TENANTS STILL INVOLVED IN AMNESTY DISCUSSIONS TO TAKE IMMEDIATE PROFESSIONAL ADVICE

 

The Tenant Farming Commissioner has just issued guidance for tenants who will be concluding their amnesty agreements after the end of the amnesty period – 12th December 2021. In light of this new guidance the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is advising all tenant farmers in this position to seek professional advice as a matter of urgency.

In the run up to the 12th December deadline an estimated 200 or more tenants served amnesty notices on their landlords in order to ensure that they would be able to take advantage of the amnesty and have their improvements agreed and recorded as eligible for end of tenancy compensation.   Serving an amnesty notice triggers a formal process by which the landlord has 2 months within which to object and following a landlord’s objection, a tenant has a further 2 month period to refer the matter to the Land Court. It was envisaged that this would give landlords and tenants an opportunity to agree their differences and conclude the amnesty.

However, recent legal opinion now suggests there may be doubt whether such agreements signed outside of the amnesty period are enforceable without ratification from the Land Court. In practice this means;

  • Where a landlord has made no objections to the improvements contained in the notice or has not replied by the end of the 2 month period, the tenant doesn’t need to do anything further other than make sure they keep a copy of the notice and proof of delivery safe.
  • Where the landlord objects to some but not every item and the tenant decides to accept the position, nothing further needs to be done, other than keeping a copy of the objection notice safely with the amnesty notice.
  • If the tenant wants to contest the position they must apply to the Land Court within 2 months of the objection notice. If they reach agreement with the landlord during that time, they still have to apply to the Land Court for approval of the list of agreed improvements, before the 2 month deadline expires.
  • Any agreement made after the end of the amnesty period on 12th December will need to be approved by the Land Court. Tenants who have signed amnesty agreements after 12th December should take professional advice as to how to proceed as soon as possible.

The Tenant Farming Commissioner’s guidance sets out the legal position and how to proceed in dealing with any landlord’s objections. The full text can be found on the Land Commission’s website;

www.landcommission.gov.scot/news-events/news

Commenting on the situation STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Although it is disappointing that a legal complication has arisen for those who have not yet completed their amnesties, it can be resolved providing the correct procedure is followed. We also anticipate that the process of obtaining Land Court approval for an agreed amnesty should not be onerous or expensive.

“Tenants who served notices towards the tail end of the amnesty period will be finding the statutory clock ticking and therefore, STFA strongly recommends that they seek professional advice as soon as possible. We would also remind all tenants who have taken part in the amnesty to keep copies of all documentation associated with the amnesty, particularly copies of the safe delivery of the formal notices and objection notices.

 

NEW MEASURES ON THE WAY TO BREAK TENANCY LOGJAM

NEW MEASURES ON THE WAY TO BREAK TENANCY LOGJAM

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

13th December 2020

 

 

NEW MEASURES ON THE WAY TO BREAK TENANCY LOGJAM

 

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) has welcomed last week’s news that legislation to implement the new Relinquishment and Assignation provisions in the 2016 Land Reform Act has begun its journey through the Scottish Parliament. Three Statutory Instruments enacting the provisions were laid on Friday 11th December and are expected to become law before the end of February 2021.

The aim of the new legislation is to enable secure tenants to realise the value in their tenancy should they relinquish it while at the same time potentially creating an opportunity for new entrants to farming. The provisions allow an existing tenant to relinquish the tenancy on payment by the landlord of a statutory valuation based on the value of the tenancy and the tenant’s improvements. If the landlord does not wish to pay the tenant the statutory valuation, the tenant can assign it for value to a new entrant or to an individual who is progressing in farming.

In response to the news STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson commented; “It has been a long haul to get this part of the Land Reform Act reform into practice and this news will be greatly welcomed by a number of tenants who have been waiting for the past three years to put their retirement plans into action and make way for the next generation. Delays in implementing relinquishment and assignation have been very frustrating for tenants who have felt time is not on their side. As the future of agriculture becomes ever more uncertain many tenants have felt they can wait no longer and have had to leave their farms without being able to benefit from the statutory relinquishment process.

“Last week’s announcement means the relinquishment option will be available in a couple of months’ time, giving those wishing to exit farming time to plan their futures. Given the statutory timescales, retiring tenants may be able to complete the relinquishment process by the end of 2021. The Tenant Farming Commissioner has an important statutory role to play in appointing an independent valuer to place a value on the tenant’s interest in the tenancy as well as his improvements. This is an entirely new procedure, and we can expect Bob McIntosh to update current guidelines shortly and establish a panel of trained valuers.

“Fortunately, in anticipation of the legislation, a number of relinquishments and assignations have been amicably agreed with landlords over the last couple of years, so the principles behind valuing tenancies and even assignations have already been tried and tested and some useful precedents set.

“The Land Reform Act has been a complex piece of legislation and, thanks to Brexit and the Covid pandemic, it is unlikely to be fully implemented in this parliament. Relinquishment and assignation are important pieces in the tenancy reform jigsaw and will help break the logjam at the top of the tenanted sector while also providing opportunities to encourage elderly tenants to retire and make way for the next generation of farmers.”

 

 

Stewart Jamieson – A life well lived

Stewart Jamieson – A life well lived

Stewart Jamieson – A life well lived

 

It is with great sadness that we have to announce the death of Stewart Jamieson who passed away peacefully on 17th October 2020 at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh after a short illness. Stewart was a founding member of STFA and played an active role in helping to reform tenancy law in the 2003 Act and in the launching of STFA the following year.

Stewart was born in Clydebank in 1949 where his parents, Stewart and Jenny, farmed at Auchenleck until the family’s move to Kirkland Farm near Thornhill in Dumfries-shire. He was educated at Wallace Hall in Closeburn before studying Agriculture at Glasgow University in 1967 followed by a PhD in animal behaviour at Reading, completed in 1971. In 1972 he met his wife Frances (Fran) and married the following year.

In 1975 Stewart and Fran moved back to farm at Kirkland with Stewart’s parents where their three daughters, Mairi, Lisa and Anna were born. Stewart became heavily immersed in family life and, as well as running a large dairy unit, he managed to find the time to become involved in a range of committees and boards, including Roslin, Dairy Co Holstein Breeders and consultants CARA. In 2001 Stewart took on the new challenge of going organic and developed new ways of running the farm and managing his grazing.

In 2002 Stewart became involved with the Scottish Tenant Farmers Action Group which just had been set up to improve the rights of tenant farmers and give them an opportunity to buy their farms. Over the next year or so Stewart emerged as one of the leading lights in STFAG speaking up for tenants in the press, driving up and down to Edinburgh to meet with civil servants and other organisation as well as lobbying government and parliament. All this hard work resulted in radical changes to the Agricultural Holdings Bill in 2003 with most of STFAG’s demands being met.

In 2003 Stewart and Fran were delighted to accept Buccleuch Estates offer to buy Kirkland and Rosehill farms and Stewart achieved his dream of becoming an owner-occupier. Despite this, Stewart retained his interest in improving tenants’ rights and continued to play a leading role in the formation of the STFA in 2004 and remained on the Board of Directors until 2010.

In 2012 Stewart and Fran decided sell up and retire from farming. In doing so he was particularly delighted at being able to sell his herd, en bloc, and move them across the road to his neighbour’s farm. He and Fran then moved to their new home at the Glebe House in Terregles on the other side of Dumfries where they have spent an active retirement busy with grandchildren, gardening and golf. Stewart has also remained interested in agricultural and political events, and, of course football. He even found time to dabble in writing and published a history of Wallace Hall Academy and was in the midst of writing a history of the Royal Highland show.

STFA members will remember Stewart as a principled and honest man who combined a social conscience with a strong sense of justice. He loved company and was great company himself, he was a natural communicator with a powerful and authoritative voice which will be much missed in STFA meetings. Stewart lived life to the full, achieving much during his life and he leaves the world a better place. Our thoughts and sympathies are with his wife Fran, her three daughters and seven grandchildren.

CODE OF PRACTICE INTRODUCED WHILE RENT REVIEW REFORMS STALL

CODE OF PRACTICE INTRODUCED WHILE RENT REVIEW REFORMS STALL

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

24th November 2020

Code of Practice introduced while rent review reforms stall

 

The Scottish Government has decided not to proceed with implementing changes to the rent test as proposed in the 2016 Land Reform Act and is instead taking a fresh look at how to modernise the rent review system to provide the fairest and best solution for tenant farmers.  In the meantime, rents will continue to be reviewed under the existing system.  As an interim measure the Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, is introducing a comprehensive Code of Practice on Conducting Rent Reviews to ensure that rents are reviewed transparently and correctly and proper account is taken of comparable evidence.

A revitalised rent review system was one of the major reforms recommended by the Agricultural Holdings Review Group by former Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and incorporated in the Land Reform Act.  The intention had been to replace the market driven formula for determining rents with one based on the productive capacity of the farm.  Since then, the difficulties associated with designing a brand new rent test have become obvious and stakeholders have struggled to find agreement on how the proposed legislation should be applied in practice.

Commenting on the situation, STFA Chairman said; “We are very disappointed that, for a variety of reasons, the Scottish Government has decided not to proceed with implementing changes to the rent test. We are now faced with an extended discussion with other stakeholders and the government on the best way forward and it is likely that, even with a fair wind, it will be at least another year or two before we could have another rent regime in place.

“We remain adamant that continuing with the status quo cannot be an option and steps must be taken to create a rent test which does not place such a strong emphasis on an increasingly scarce open market for comparable evidence.  We welcome Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing’s commitment to continuing with the quest to re-design a new rent test and Bob McIntosh’s new code of practice which not only details the rent review process which should be followed, but also emphasises some key principles in rent negotiations which are so often conveniently forgotten, especially by landlords’ agents.

“Although it is disappointing that a new rent system has not emerged from the months and years spent on it, it has not been a waste of time and resources.  There is now a much greater understanding about how rent reviews should be done and the importance of honesty and transparency in the review process and especially the cardinal principle that tenants should not be rented on their own improvements.  The amnesty has been a huge help in this regard.”

Although many problems with rent reviews are associated with an out of date rent test, much of the blame must also lie with the ways in which rent reviews have been carried out over the years.  The TFC’s Code describes the legal basis for rent reviews and provides a practical, step-by-step approach to conducting a rent review. The Code also signposts alternative ways to resolving disputes and how to deal with breeches of the Code.  STFA recommend it as a must read for both landlords and tenants and particularly land agents.”

The TFC’s Code of Practice on Conducting Rent Reviews is available here.  Hard copies have already been distributed to STFA members.

STFA launches last ditch amnesty plea

STFA launches last ditch amnesty plea

News Release

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

15th October 2020

STFA launches last ditch amnesty plea

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh’s timely warning today of the fast approaching deadline of the amnesty on tenant’s improvements. In response to Covid 19 restrictions and STFA’s request in March, the Scottish Government agreed to extend the amnesty period by six months to 12th December 2020.

Time is running out, but STFA believes that with goodwill on both sides there is still time for tenants to finalise amnesty agreements with their landlords in the remaining two months using the informal process. However, where it may not be possible to conclude the amnesty before 12th December tenants must serve a formal notice in order to preserve their position.

Commenting on the situation, STFA Chairman Christopher Nicholson said; “Although the majority of tenants have already completed the amnesty process, we are aware that, as predicted, there are some who have left it to the last minute. Despite this, we would urge landlords and tenants to work together to agree and record these improvements in the short time available.

“As has been said many times before, the amnesty is a unique opportunity for tenants to rectify past mistakes and omissions in their paperwork which otherwise, could prevent them from receiving waygo compensation for improvements made over the course of the tenancy. This could be the difference between coming out of the tenancy with a comfortable nest egg or leaving with very little bar the value of your stock. Even if you have no intention of giving up the tenancy it makes sense to get everything in order and, in any case, the amnesty will be essential for future rent reviews to ensure tenants are not charged rent on their own improvements.

“STFA is also aware that there are a minority of landlords or their agents who continue to be reluctant to co-operate or even engage in the amnesty process. This type of behaviour has been condemned by industry stakeholders and tenants in this position should inform the Tenant Farming Commissioner without delay. The next step will have to be serving a formal amnesty notice before the deadline on 12th December.

“It is important to remember that an amnesty notice must include not only a full and accurate record of improvements but also details of them and the manner in which they were carried out as well as reasons as to why it is fair and equitable for them to be considered for compensation to be payable at waygo. The more accurate the notice is, the more difficult it will be for a landlord to sustain an objection. Assistance is available from representative bodies such as STFA, and the Tenant Farming Commissioner but, at this stage professional help is strongly advised.

“This really is the last chance to take advantage of the amnesty and secure the future for succeeding generations of tenant farmers. Don’t ignore it!”