Updated headlines 14-5-20:
Scottish Government confirmed a six-month extension to the Tenants Amnesty. Don’t let the grass grow – it’s time to act quickly
Tenant farmers who have yet to notify their landlords of any improvements on their farms were set to lose out on compensation claims when their tenancy comes to an end if they had not taken advantage of the Tenants Amnesty which had a deadline of 12th June. That deadline has now been extended, but tenants and landlords are being urged not to let the grass grow under their feet.
In light of the COVISD-19 crisis, the tenants’ Amnesty has been extended 6 months to 12th December, but tenants are still urged to act quickly.
The three-year amnesty on tenant improvements began in June 2017. It allows landlords and tenants to rectify any outstanding issues around notification of tenants’ improvements which should qualify for compensation when the tenancy comes to an end – in a process known as ‘Waygo’.
Davidson & Robertson (D&R) has been working in partnership with NFU Scotland since June last year, providing a free Waygo Helpline (0131 449 6212) to support tenant farmers and landlords looking to capitalise on the ‘Waygo’ Tenants Amnesty.
Head of Policy Team at NFU Scotland, Gemma Cooper said “The joint initiative has already helped a good number of tenants and landlords and the 0131 449 6212 number is still available to help our members with any amnesty related queries.
“For those who have left things very late, this helpline could help them obtain advice relating to starting the process. It remains vitally important that both parties in a rental agreement take advantage of this process where they can. Setting the record straight will not only help the tenant at waygo but make things easier for the landlord as well.
“It is important that tenants and landlords understand that whilst the 12 June deadline will be extended, tenants still need to act quickly. The extension (likely to be 6 months) is the last possible date for using the formal notice process required to safeguard parties’ legal position.”
Despite the original looming deadline, many landlords and tenants across Scotland, have still not taken advantage of the amnesty.
George Hipwell, D&R Director said “So far we have assisted landlords and tenants across the length and breadth of Scotland however uptake is still poor. We’re still encouraging eligible tenants and landlords across the country, to take up this once in a lifetime opportunity before the deadline..”
Following representations from STFA, Cabinet Secretary, Fergus Ewing has agreed to extend the amnesty period for a further six months. In a letter to STFA the Cab Sec said; “ I note the points that you have made about the difficulties tenants face in the current circumstances around on-farm meetings and I am sympathetic to your request for an extension to the amnesty. I have therefore asked my officials to explore legislative options for extending the amnesty period for 6 months.”
He has said that he will work to extend the amnesty, but due to significant pressure on Parliamentary time, he cannot guarantee an extension at this stage. Government officials have told STFA that we should hear after Easter whether or not the extension will go ahead, and we will inform members accordingly.
A statement this week by the Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC) supported by NFU Scotland, Scottish Tenant Farmers Association and Scottish Land and Estates, included advice about the implications of the coronavirus situation for any on-farm face-to-face meetings that would have been regarded as a necessary part of the process.
The advice is, that where resolving an amnesty requires a face-to-face meeting, the parties should look to agree in writing that the meeting and remaining discussions can take place after the Tenants Amnesty deadline. This must be agreed in writing by both parties. If a landlord does not consent to this, then TFC can be contacted to try to convince them.
However, all parties are being reminded that this process will only apply to claims where the amnesty process has begun before the deadline Tenants who delay the start of the process until after the deadline will lose their ability to take advantage of the amnesty provisions.
George Hipwell added: “The Tenant Farming Commissioner’s statement gives clarity on how to complete the process in the face of COVID-19 restrictions. We are pleased to hear that a six month extension is being considered, but it doesn’t mean tenants should hang back.
“The amnesty process is a one-off, so it is essential that those eligible engage as soon as possible if they haven’t already.”
The NFUS partnership with Davidson & Robertson has guided people through the process. Union members can take advantage of the Waygo helpline – 0131 449 6212, whether making initial enquiries or looking for advice having already started.”
For those who are not members of NFU Scotland, contact George Hipwell on 0131 449 6212 for more information.
NFU Scotland: Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006.
For your extra information:
What is Waygo Amnesty?
The ‘Waygo amnesty’ is a period which gives agricultural tenants the opportunity to advise their landlord of improvements which they have carried out on their holding.
As a landlord can only charge rent on what he has provided, any improvements carried out by a tenant should attract compensation at waygo (exit of tenancy) but to do so these must be properly notified to the landlord in the first instance.
For various reasons, agricultural tenants have not always registered improvements and the amnesty is to allow them the opportunity to rectify this. The three-year waygo amnesty was set to end 12th June 2020 but it is likely to be extended 6 months. If agricultural tenants do not use this, and have not registered, they risk not being fully compensated at waygo.
Amnesty agreements do not have to be complete by that time, but they must have been started. In order to protect the legal position of parties involved, this requires service of the formal amnesty notice referred to in the Tenant Farming Commissioner Code as below: Land Commission – AMNESTY-CODE PDF
Parties engaged in the amnesty on tenant’s improvements are advised to heed Government’s advice and avoid face to face meetings. Tenants, landlords and agents are asked to resolve as many amnesty claims as possible by means of email, telephone etc. If an amnesty claim cannot be resolved without an on-farm inspection/discussion, such a meeting should be postponed until Government advice changes. It is recognised that this may mean that the meeting must be held, and the schedule of improvements agreed, after the end of the amnesty period. All landlords and tenants should be reasonable about allowing the process to remain alive even after the end of the amnesty period.
Where issues are encountered, the Tenant Farming Commissioner should be informed, the form is here: Land Commission Enquiry-Form