Prepare for land reform amnesty, tenants urged

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson. Picture: Contributed

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson. Picture: Contributed

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Tenant farmers should start preparing now for the amnesty on improvements included in the new land reform act, it was claimed yesterday.

With the process – which will give tenants a “one-off” opportunity to ensure that their improvements are recognised in rent negotiations and at way-go – likely to commence in the spring of 2017, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said that tenants should make use of the winter months to draw up a list of their improvements and look out supporting evidence.

Terming the amnesty “one of the most important provisions of the 2016 act”, STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said the process would not only help tenants get fair compensation for improvements if they ever left the unit, but would also establish a record of what must be “black patched” or disregarded during rent reviews.

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Nicholson said that the three-year amnesty was likely to involve considerable work for tenants – requiring them to track down evidence that the tenant or his predecessors had footed the bill for any improvements, such as invoices and past correspondence.

“The more evidence that can be put together, the stronger the tenant’s case will be that it is fair and equitable that compensation should be paid,” said Nicholson.

He stressed that it was important that tenants looked “far and wide” when drawing up their list – as the definition of an improvement covered “any building or structure affixed to land and any works on, in, over or under land”.

This, he said, included improvements to land such as ditches, drainage, removal of stones and other obstacles to cultivation; field boundaries; access improvements; provision of services; and any buildings including houses and cottages.

However, there were also a number of exclusions on what could be claimed. Nicholson said the amnesty would not apply where the landlord objected to the original improvement notice from the tenant or the improvement had been carried out in a manner significantly different from the original notice.

The landlord could also object to an amnesty notice on a number of grounds. These included: (a) that it was not fair and equitable for compensation to be payable for the relevant improvement; (b) that the landlord carried out the improvement in whole or in part, or (c) the landlord gave or allowed a benefit to the tenant in consideration of the tenant carrying out the improvement.

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