Tenants urged to resist ‘unreasonable’ rent hikes

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With less than a fortnight to go before May term rents have to be agreed, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) has urged tenants not to feel pressurised into agreeing last-minute demands for “unreasonable” rent increases.

The STFA revealed that one member had contacted them facing a doubling of his rent despite having had a review as 
recently as three years ago.

STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson said there were other cases where 30 and 40 per cent increases were being sought despite last year’s appalling weather and a harsh spring.

They were also coming in at a very late stage, with some tenants only being contacted in the past week. All of this despite the STFA expressing concerns to Scottish Lands & Estates (SL&E) both about scale of increases in the present economic climate and the timing of such bids.

“It is ironic that in a week which saw the government announce £6 million in aid for farmers hardest hit by the worst spring in living memory and the publication of a code of practice for rent reviews, we hear of some land agents only starting to review rents less than a month before the term date and some outrageous rental demands,” said Nicholson.

“Yet again this is clear proof of the need not only to regulate the relationship between landlord and tenant but also to bring about a change to the law to ensure that farm rents reflect the economic reality of farming rather than the frenzy of an open market which owes more to land hunger and the economics of the madhouse.”

Luke Borwick, chairman of SL&E, said: “First and foremost, there is no need for any tenant or indeed landlord to agree to a farm rent that either of them believes to be unfair.”

He added that there were tested routes open to all parties to resolve rent disputes. “We have evidence that in the areas of Scotland worst affected by weather, owners and tenants have come to sensible and amicable agreements.

Borwick said if the STFA had cases where rent review discussions were being opened at the last minute then that evidence should be provided to the SL&E for investigation to see if it involved an SL&E member.

“Our policy is quite clear and that is that dialogue should be taking place between the parties at the earliest opportunity; that dialogue can be opened by either party as soon as the notice is served,” he said.

“Our experience is that the overwhelming majority of rent reviews are agreed through constructive discussion and very few remain unresolved.”

Borwick expressed his disappointment that the STFA seemed to make these allegations every rent review date.

“Tenant and landowner organisations need to work together to promote good practice and constructive relationships, yet the STFA continually inflames the debate and in doing so undermines the very sector it purports to defend.”