Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

12th December 2018


Last week saw the conclusion of a round of seven farm walks, held by the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, demonstrating and explaining to tenant farmers how to carry out the amnesty for tenant’s improvements.

The farm walks consisted of an inspection of the tenant’s improvements and fixtures accompanied by a practical discussion of how they were carried outand what investment, if any, had been made by the landlord. The farms visited all had an interesting variety of works to be considered as improvements ranging from buildings, fencing and housing improvements to the less obvious land improvements such as drainage and stone clearance.

The farms were all under secure tenure with leases ranging from 40 to 140 years old with the older leases highlighting the investment that tenant families had made over the generations with some even installing electricity, water and fencing and converting moorland to arable. Walking around the farms discussing improvements raised some interesting points for discussion; how to treat joint investments by landlord and tenant; the effect of post lease agreements which transferred landlord’s obligations to the tenant; how to treat march fences which had been renewed by the tenant.

The afternoon sessions dealtwith the process of completing the amnesty and explaining what evidence and information is required to demonstrate that the improvement was carried out by the tenant. Tenants were encouraged to “send the dog wide” in gathering potential improvements, but to be prepared to be pragmatic and prioritise the most such as important items to be submitted.  Tenants were repeatedly reminded that the intention of the amnesty was to agree ownership of improvements and fixtures, their cost and compensation value were immaterial at this stage and would need to be considered until a valuation was required for waygo compensation or a farm sale.

Commenting on the farm walks STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “These farm walks have attracted a high level of interest and have been extremely successful in giving a practical demonstration on how to compile a list of improvements and in explaining the more technical aspects of completing the process Feedback from the meetings has shown most attendees having taken the advice on board and already getting down to making a start on compiling a list of improvements.

“As well as regularising a register of tenant’s improvements, tenants were reminded of the importance of the amnesty for rent reviews. Although it has always been the case that tenants should not be expected to pay rent on their improvements (a fact frequently ignored by landlord’s agents), the new rent test will explicitly require improvements and fixtures to be taken account of when calculating the productive capacity of the holding

“Time is running out and tenants not getting underway with the amnesty over the next few months will struggle to complete it by June 2020. Experience has shown that the average amnesty will probably take at least 9 months to complete and those leaving it until next year will find the farm calendar getting in the way and the closer to the end of the amnesty, the agents will be and the less time they will have.

“The amnesty has the full support of the whole industry, it has been widely publicised and is being actively encouraged by the Sottish Government so it is surprising that such a small number of tenants are currently taking advantage of it and we would urge all tenants to get involved before it is too late. It really is the opportunity of a lifetime and will prove to be one of the most important tasks any tenant will undertake.  Fellow tenants in England are looking over the border with envy and cannot understand why uptake in Scotland has been so slow – don’t delay, start today!”