Farming industry leaders are calling on all landlords and tenants to adhere to new guidance being issued jointly by NFU Scotland, Scottish Land & Estates and the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association.
The call follows meetings held around the country to explain progress on issuing guidance on topics as diverse as rent reviews, tenant’s improvements and limited partnerships.
There should be further guidance by Christmas on fulfilling landlord’s and tenant’s obligations, as well as a long list of subjects to be addressed during 2016. This includes guidance on way-go compensation, succession and assignation, management of sporting leases, maintaining soil fertility, and effective landlord/tenant relationships.
This coincides with the progress of the Land Reform Bill currently passing through the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Government has included the appointment of a Tenant Farming Commissioner with a remit to produce codes of practice for landlords and tenants. The Commissioner will have a duty to promote adherence to these codes, as well as powers to investigate alleged breaches and impose penalties for non-compliance in the meantime however Andrew Thin has been appointed as the Scottish Government’s Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming and is in effect carrying out the role on an interim basis.
Working with NFUS, SLE and STFA Mr Thin, a member of the recent Agricultural Holdings Legislation Review Group has worked up voluntary codes which may very well be close to the mandatory codes which will emerge from the new Bill.
The task for the leaders of the three organisations is now to encourage everyone to stick to the terms of the voluntary codes.
Chris Nicholson, STFA chairman, said: “Some tenants have reported real change for the better, notably in relation to the conduct of rent reviews, but we are still finding that a number of landlords, and even some professional land agents, are either unaware of or are ignoring our guidance. We need to find a way of reaching these people, and the industry bodies will be asking Andrew Thin to investigate in situations where we think there might be a problem”.
Allan Bowie, NFUS President, picked up on the same theme. “Most landlords and tenants enjoy an excellent relationship and work in close partnership for mutual benefit” he said. “But the introduction of new mandatory codes will demand of everyone an alignment with best practice that may come as a bit of a shock to the recalcitrant few.”
In rssponse David Johnstone, SLE chairman made it clear that his organisation would be encouraging all its members to adopt the guidance as routine practice. He said: “The take up of the Joint Industry Guidance has been encouraging but it is still early days.
“Where there are instances of the guidance not being followed, we will be working with the NFUS and STFA to find out why. Major firms of land agents, and RICS itself, have signed up to the new guidance, and we need to help them turn that commitment into reality at every level in their respective organisations”.