STFA backs survey of professional agents’ behaviour

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

 13th September 2016


STFA backs survey of professional agents’ behaviour

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association has welcomed the joint initiative between RICS and the Government’s interim adviser, Andrew Thin, to monitor the conduct of professional agents in rent reviews. The move follows concerns expressed by MSPs during the debate over the Land Reform Bill earlier this year and has the backing of organisations representing both landowners and tenants.

The project is a joint initiative between RICS and the Scottish Government’s Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming (IATF), and follows the issuing in late March of a discussion paper about agent conduct which has been the subject of consultations with key industry bodies.

Over the next 6 – 12 months landlords and tenants involved in rent reviews will be asked a series of questions about their experience where the other party to the review employed an agent to act for them. The aim is to understand and assess how the person on the receiving end of an agent’s negotiating tactics feels about the encounter.

Responses will be analysed with a particular focus on how the conduct of agents employed by landlords is perceived by their tenants, and vice versa where an agent is employed by the tenant. The aim is to identify any aspects of the agent’s behaviour that might be potentially damaging to landlord/tenant relations.

The IATF published a guide to maintaining good relations for landlords, tenants and their agents in June 2016 which emphasised the pivotal role of agents in these relationships, and described four broad criteria which should underpin the behaviour of all three parties.

Commenting on the joint initiative, Chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “For some time now STFA has been convinced that the behaviour of some professional agents has been the root cause of the poor relationships between landlords and tenants. This view was recognised by the Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group and the RACCE committee of the Scottish Parliament who both heard first hand evidence from tenants who felt their relationships with their landlords had been damaged by way in which of a minority of land agents had behaved. Generally the situation was worse where an outside firm of land agents had been contracted in to conduct rent reviews.

“STFA fully supports this initiative which will, we hope, herald a new era of mutual self-respect and remove the stress, confrontation and sometimes unwarranted expense which so often accompanies what should be routine business negotiations, such as reviewing the rent. It is heartening to observe that the warnings issued by the Parliament already seem to have been taken on board by professional agents on all sides and the advent of the Interim Adviser on Tenant Farming has helped to resolve some potential disputes.

“STFA would, however, like to see this initiative rolled out to encompass other business dealings between landlords and tenants, such as the proposed amnesty for improvements which may well lead towards areas of disagreement and dispute. The amnesty will probably be one of the most important discussions tenants will ever have with their landlords, affecting not only end of tenancy compensation, but also the level of rent to be paid under the new rent review test based on the productive capacity of the farm. The amnesty will probably be available from the turn of the year and has a 3 year time limit and so it is important that negotiations over agreeing tenants’ improvements are conducted fairly and in a business-like manner.”