STFA warns tenants against factors running down amnesty clock

Scottish Tenant Farmers Association

News Release

25th February 2020

STFA warns tenants against factors running down amnesty clock

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association is warning tenant farmers to be on their guard against landlords or their agents if they suspect them of using delaying tactics in an attempt to “run down the clock” before the amnesty period finishes on June 12th. With only 3 months to go before the tenants’ amnesty on improvements expires, STFA has been contacted by tenants becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of progress being made in finalising their amnesties by landlords or factors who appear to be deliberately awkward or officious in an attempt to slow down amnesty negotiations.

The amnesty is an important provision introduced in the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2016 which allows for certain past improvements carried out by the tenant to become eligible for end of tenancy compensation despite missing notices or consents. The 3 year amnesty period, during which a tenant may notify his landlord of the works carried out on the farm which he wishes to be registered as improvements, expires on 13th June 2020. STFA has stressed the importance of the amnesty as not only being essential for agreeing what will be eligible for compensation at waygo, but also essential for the new rent test and for clarifying who owns what for the benefit of future generations.

Commenting on the situation STFA Director Angus McCall said; “Unfortunately the uptake of the amnesty continues to be slow and there will be a large number of tenants who will miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity, despite the efforts of STFA. It is, therefore deeply disappointing that we are being approached by so many who, having put a great deal of time and effort into completing their amnesties over the last couple of years, are now finding it difficult to bring negotiations to a conclusion and complete the amnesty.

“Following discussions with tenants and land agents, we are convinced that amnesty discussions are being deliberately hampered in an attempt to run down the clock and in doing so, there may be breaches of the Code of Practice which should be referred to the Tenant Farming Commissioner without delay.

“The Code of Practice, reinforced by supplementary guidance, clearly sets down guidelines on how both parties should behave in amnesty discussions and defines breaches of the code which should be referred to the Commissioner. Common breaches include a lack of co-operation and sharing of information between parties, the unwillingness of land agents to visit the farm and discuss improvements on site and a lack of communication prolonging discussions much longer than the recommended 9 months. Stalling tactics seem to have increased over the last couple of months as the deadline approaches with landlords’ agents “gilding the lily” by demanding detailed information, well beyond what is necessary to establish the existence and eligibility of improvements and who paid for them.

“The Amnesty was the brainchild of Scottish Lands and Estates and continues to have their full backing, and it was anticipated that the spirit of the amnesty would be respected by landlords’ agents, sadly this has not always been the case. Time is now of the essence and if tenants believe they are being obstructed by the actions of landlords or agents, they should act immediately and not be nervous about referring matter to Bob McIntosh the Tenant Farming Commissioner. Experience has shown that the Commissioner’s intervention has frequently resolved an impasse without disturbing relationships between the parties.

“Tenants should also remember that all is not lost if they have not managed to finalise their amnesty agreements by 12th June. They still have the option to serve a formal amnesty notice on their landlord. However, in order to do so, they will have to have already compiled a list of eligible improvements along with supporting evidence. This will tie them and their landlords into an inflexible formal process with statutory timelines, less room for manoeuvre and if they fail to reach an agreement, the Scottish Land Court will be the ultimate arbiter.