The body representing Scots tenant farmers has renewed its call for a cap on farm rent increases until new tenancy legislation is put in place.
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said it has written to farm minister Richard Lochhead and industry leaders to ask for support in imposing a standstill, or an agreed cap, on rent increases.
The renewed plea comes a week after a landmark court case involving tenant farmer John Elliot and Roxburghe Estates – the case, which was settled in the Land Court saw Mr Elliot’s rent increase from £43.23 per acre to £77.19 per acre.
STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Tenants have been expressing their dismay at the extent of the rent rise imposed by the Land Court and the costs involved.
“Rent rises of this magnitude are unsustainable and immediate action is needed to prevent the rental situation getting out of hand potentially causing a clearance of tenants from 1991 tenancies.”
He said the organisation had been approached by a number of tenants facing rent reviews this year who were “appalled at the prospect of conducting a rent review where the cards are all stacked in the landlords’ favour”.
“No tenant is going to risk having his rent decided by either the Land Court or by arbitration as both methods will have to follow the court’s lead and impose a rent based on the open market,” added Mr Nicholson.
“Tenants now have no defence against an aggressive landlord bent on rent racking them out of their farms.”
As a result, he said the STFA was calling on government and industry bodies to use their influence to bring rent review disputes to a “satisfactory conclusion” and agree on either a moratorium on rent reviews or a cap on rent increases until a new rent review process is agreed and changes made to tenancy legislation.
Scottish Land and Estates chairman David Johnstone said it was not in the power of trade associations to dictate how their members operate.
However, he said the landowners body understood tenants’ concerns, and it urged all parties with cases pending in the Land Court to do everything in their power to resolve them and avoid adjudication by the court.
He added: “We also want landlords and tenants to agree fair and sustainable rents. It is not in the industry’s interest for any rent increase demand to be inappropriate.”
NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said: “Until there are changes made to the current process we would encourage STFA and SLE to sit down with us and perhaps a couple of members of the agricultural review group to see how we deal with rent reviews that may happen this year.”
Farm minister Richard Lochhead said the interim report from the government-led Agricultural Holdings Legislation review group – released at the Royal Highland Show last week – highlighted many significant issues, including rent reviews, which are holding the tenanted sector back.
He said he was keen to speak to STFA and other industry bodies to hear their response to the interim report.