Changes to the rent review procedures and moves towards a tougher scrutiny of the conduct and standards of land agents are set to mark a “new era” in tenant landlord relationship.
Earlier in the week the Scottish Government’s independent adviser on tenant farming, Andrew Thin, released a paper to open discussions on the operation of land agents after criticism of a minority of those working as intermediaries.
The move was welcomed by director of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA), Angus McCall, as tackling the “thorny issues” of rent reviews and the role of land agents.
“The STFA considers problem rent reviews to be one of the main reasons for breakdowns in relationships between landlords and tenants,” said McCall.
During investigations in advance of the Scottish Government’s land reform bill, McCall said considerable evidence had been presented to suggest the actions of some individual land agents, especially in the conduct of rent reviews, had soured relations between tenant and landlord and had been at the heart of discontent in the sector.
He said that the calling in of outside agents to conduct rent reviews had often seen the traditional aspects of the process ignored and the focus placed purely on maximising rental income rather than ensuring a profitable future for both parties.
“Thin’s intervention now signals a new era in landlord/tenant relationships where bad practice and bad behaviour will no longer be tolerated,” he said.
Launching the discussion document, Thin said many agents were doing an excellent and professional job “but something is clearly going wrong in certain cases, and it is vital that the sector acts quickly to get on top of this”. Thin indicated he would be meeting with bodies involved in the sector and would prefer to see solutions coming from within the profession.
The president of Scottish Agricultural Arbiters & Valuers Association (SAAVA), Rob Forrest, said his organisation would develop a practical code based on sound principles and robust concepts aimed at maintaining good relationships and ensuring practical negotiations reached positive outcomes.
He added: “It is important that this code applies to all those acting as agents, not just those already regulated as professionals, so that all working with agricultural tenancies adopt the good behaviour already expected of Central Association of Agricultural Valuers and SAAVA members.”
The Scottish director of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Sarah Speirs, said it was an independent professional body and would work positively with the commissioner to deliver a healthy and vibrant tenanted sector.