One of my key roles as Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) is to look out for common issues that might cause tension or misunderstandings between tenants and landlords.
I’m always thinking about similarities in the concerns that tenants and landlords discuss with me, and whether there is something I could put in place to help others in the same situation.
One theme that I’m working on at the moment is issues that arise around fixed equipment.
Many people in the tenanted sector contact me to discuss various concerns around fixed equipment and the position is not always well understood.
I’m therefore working on a guidance note that will explain what fixed equipment should be provided at the start of the lease, where responsibilities for maintenance and renewal lie, and the implications of changes to the fixed equipment during the lease.
Another topic that has been brought to my attention is confusion over general statutory regulations for those operating in the agricultural holdings sector.
Operating a farm involves many duties and responsibilities, and ensuring that everything is in order can be challenging – particularly in the tenanted sector where responsibilities are split between landlord and tenant.
It’s not always clear who needs to do what to be compliant.
It can also be difficult for landlords and tenants to keep abreast of requirements, particularly as tenancy agreements can remain in place for many years, but the regulations for agricultural buildings and dwellings included in agricultural leases are often updated or changed.
My new guidance will provide information on current statutory requirements and aims to help parties to understand where responsibilities lie and what actions they require to take.
It’s not about the normal legal obligations of landlord and tenant with regard to the repair and maintenance of fixed equipment, but covers general statutory obligations around inspections and certifications.
The reasons for doing this are not just about keeping up with legal requirements: we all hear of tragedies that could have been avoided if safety compliance had been up to date.
Finding an efficient way through the compliance regulations and keeping up to date with necessary inspections, servicing and testing, and all the associated paperwork can be challenging, and there always seems to be something more immediate needing attention.
My new guide will provide practical information on who is likely to be responsible for which aspects of statutory compliance and what action is required to be compliant with the regulations.
It sets out statutory responsibilities around common requirements such as electricity inspections, boiler servicing, fire risk assessments, chimney sweeping, and smoke detectors.
As with many duties on tenanted holdings, a good place to start is an open discussion between tenant and landlord to organise who is going to do what and when.
I shall provide a checklist to help initiate such a discussion.
Tenants and landlords can agree how they are going to split the various responsibilities, but one thing is very clear – if the appropriate records of inspections, such as compliance certificates, are not held then the item will not be deemed compliant.
Records must be kept up to date.
Without certified paper proof that the inspections or tests have been carried out, the landlord or tenant cannot verify these have been completed and are therefore not seen to be compliant with the requirements.
Do have a look at the Land Commission website at www.landcommission.gov.scot which hosts copies of the current TFC Guides covering a wide range of topics including MLDTs, diversification, the professional conduct of agents, joint ventures, and more.
- Bob McIntosh is Tenant Farming Commissioner