Independent Adviser to tackle rent reviews and land agents

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release



22nd March 2016


Independent Adviser to tackle rent reviews and land agents


The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has given its backing to the Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin’s initiatives to tackle the thorny issues of rent reviews and the role of land agents. STFA considers problem rent reviews to be one of the main reasons for breakdowns in relationships between landlords and tenants.

Andrew Thin has launched two initiatives this week; he is calling for a wide-ranging debate about the role of land agents and secondly, he is calling for feedback on recent rent review practices and is encouraging landlords and tenants to contact him directly for advice or to intervene if requested.

Responding to these initiatives, STFA Director Angus McCall said: “Evidence given to the AHLRG and parliament in the run up to the Land Reform Bill has shown that the actings of land agents, especially in the conduct of rent reviews, has been at the heart of widespread discontent in the tenanted sector and is directly responsible for the souring of many relationships between landlords and tenants. As a consequence, one of the first tasks of the Tenant Farming commissioner will be to review the operation of land agents and make recommendations on improvements that could be made.

“Rent reviews should represent a break in the lease where discussions take place, not just about rent, but more generally about the state of the holding, what repairs need to be done or improvements to be made and crucially the profitability of farming. Nowadays these discussions rarely take place even where there is a resident factor.  All too often the rent review is contracted out to an outside firm of land agents whose sole motivation is to maximise the rent for the holding, regardless of the economic impact on the farming business. Faced with the threat of the Land Court tenants frequently feel they have no option but to agree.

“Andrew Thin’s intervention now signals a new era in landlord/tenant relationships where bad practice and bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated. We support his notion of a Code of Conduct Specific to Agricultural Holdings promoting integrity, respect, transparency and accountability.  These are commonsense values, but are frequently ignored in the context of agricultural tenancies and STFA welcomes their incorporation the professional codes of conduct.

“STFA has long advocated the creation of an industry ombudsman to keep a watchful eye and see fair play in the sector and therefore also supports Andrew Thin’s call for feedback on rent review practices following signs that joint industry guidance is being ignored. For years STFA has warned about the bad behaviour of a significant minority of land agents and has consistently been criticised by landlord organisations for not producing evidence.  However, it has become obvious that tenants are nervous about making complaints and Andrew Thin has now opened a route for tenants to seek impartial and confidential advice and he has indicated that he is prepared to intervene where necessary.

“These initiatives are timely in the run up to the May rent review date and STFA would encourage any tenant being faced with a demand for a hefty rent rise of worried about the conduct of the rent review to make contact with Andrew Thin, either directly or through representative bodies. We would also encourage land agents to follow codes of conduct and limit any rent demand in line with industry guidelines if it can be justified.

“However, it is hard to see many circumstances where a rent increase could be defensible considering the parlous state of farming with commodity prices on the floor and reduced support payments. Rents are at a standstill or falling in England and this should be the case in Scotland as well.”

Tenants wanting to contact IATF Andrew Thin through the Scottish Government should contact:

Claudine Duff at or on 0131-244-2293