Scottish landlords have been accused of putting ‘opportunism before responsibility’ at rent reviews.
The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said a high number of rent reviews had already taken place in November and more rent notices had been served for May 2016.
With many farmers and crofters experiencing tight cash flows and facing the prospect of severe delays to Basic Payment Scheme instalments, the STFA questioned landlords’ reasoning for increased rent demands.
The association’s chairman Christopher Nicholson said: “Landlords continuing to seek rent increases in the current climate are clearly putting opportunism before responsibility, and risk driving a wedge between tenants and landlords at a time when the tenanted sector is looking for common ground and actively promoting better relationships.
“I would like to ask Scottish Land and Estates and NFUS to encourage their members who are still driving for rent increases to consider the potential damage that they risk causing."
Mr Nicholson said landlords were seizing what could be their last opportunity before the introduction of the Land Reform Bill and a new rent test based on the productive capacity of the holding. This will replace the present open market test.
“All industry stakeholders including SLE recognise the need for a more appropriate rent test closer to the model used south of the border for the last 30 years to ensure the setting of viable rents,” added Mr Nicholson.
David Johnstone, chairman of Scottish Land and Estates, said it was good practice to hold a review every three years, even if a rise was not sought.
“The serving of a notice to review a rent does not automatically mean that an increase will be sought and there are circumstances where a rent rise is justified,” he said, adding SLE did not disagree there was a problem with the way rents were currently calculated. However, he said the organisation had an ‘open mind’ on the inclusion of productive capacity in calculations.
“The suggestion by the STFA that there should be blanket treatment of rent reviews is excessively simplistic and each case has to be dealt with in its merits and will inevitably take into consideration factors pertaining to the particular farm,” said Mr Johnstone.