Scottish landlords and tenants to "follow the codes"

Industry leaders are calling on all landlords and tenants to adhere to new guidance being issued jointly by NFUS, SLE and STFA.

This follows well attended meetings held in Kelso, Dumfries, Bridge of Allan, Inverness and Inverurie to promote emerging Joint Industry Guidance on topics as diverse as rent reviews, tenant’s improvements and limited partnerships. The meetings also heard of plans to publish further guidance by Christmas on fulfilling landlord’s and tenant’s obligations, as well as a long list of subjects to be addressed during 2016. This includes guidance on way-go compensation, succession and assignation, management of sporting leases, maintaining soil fertility, and effective landlord/tenant relationships.

In its flagship Land Reform Bill currently passing through the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government has included the appointment of a Tenant Farming Commissioner with a remit to produce codes of practice for landlords and tenants. The Commissioner will have a duty to promote adherence to these codes, as well as powers to investigate alleged breaches and impose penalties for non-compliance.

NFUS, SLE and STFA have been working with the Scottish Government’s Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming, Andrew Thin, to get interim guidance (in effect voluntary codes) in place in advance of the new legislation coming into force so that landlords and tenants have the chance to get used to the new arrangements before they become mandatory.

Speaking after the Inverurie meeting, Chris Nicholson, STFA Chair, said: “It is encouraging that so many people have decided to come to these meetings and tell us of their experiences. Some tenants have reported real change for the better, notably in relation to the conduct of rent reviews. But we are still finding that a number of landlords, and even some professional land agents, are either unaware of or are ignoring our guidance. We need to find a way of reaching these people, and the industry bodies will be asking Andrew Thin to investigate in situations where we think there might be a problem”.

Allan Bowie, NFUS President, picked up on the same theme. “Most landlords and tenants enjoy an excellent relationship and work in close partnership for mutual benefit” he said. “But the introduction of new mandatory codes will demand of everyone an alignment with best practice that may come as a bit of a shock to the recalcitrant few. It is essential that everyone comes on board now at this formative stage, not least so that the industry bodies are in a position to advise government on the practicalities of all this. We currently have a window of opportunity, and I would ask all landlords and tenants to engage with this and help us to get it right”.

David Johnstone, SLE Chair, made it clear that his organisation would be encouraging all its members to adopt the guidance as routine practice. He said: “The take up of the Joint Industry Guidance has been encouraging but it is still early days. Where there are instances of the guidance not being followed, we will be working with the NFUS and STFA to find out why. Major firms of land agents, and RICS itself, have signed up to the new guidance, and we need to help them turn that commitment into reality at every level in their respective organisations”.

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