Call for rent rise restraint

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With the time of year approaching when farm rents are reviewed, the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association yesterday called on landlords to be “reasonable and exercise restraint” in negotiations this year, with many farmers facing economic hardship after this summer.

A similar call was made by a well known “mud on his boots” valuer, Kenny Robertson of Robertson Rural, Bathgate, who said, with 2012 being the most difficult farming year he could remember, it had never been more important to try and get an amicable settlement.

“I would urge landlords or their factors to go and sit around the kitchen table with their tenants and see if they can get an agreement without going to the cost of bringing in external land agents,” he said.

“Factors should meet their tenants on a regular basis and they should be able to conduct at least the first part of any rental negotiation. They will know the lie of the land and the capability of the farm unlike someone brought into such discussions.”

Robertson added that he was shocked at the 20 to 30 per cent rent increases which were being talked about by some land agents, describing them as wholly unrealistic in the present economic climate and only serving to widen the “chasm” between landlord and tenant.

In the letter which the SFTA sent to Scottish Land and Estates chairman Luke Borwick, the tenants’ organisation said they were aware that some land agents were demanding unrealistic rent increases based on open market expectations despite economic evidence to the contrary.

STFA’s Angus McCall said: “STFA is concerned that landlords agents intend to press on with some hefty rent increases despite one of the most difficult summers in living memory.

“Against the backdrop of such a disastrous year I would urge you to ask your members to exercise restraint and consideration when they are negotiating rents over the next few weeks. Most farmers will be facing a large reduction in income this year and some businesses may well be at risk, particularly with bank borrowings tight. Also I would emphasise the emotional stress that a confrontational rent review in these circumstances can put on the individual tenant farmer.”