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Becoming a tenant of a croft

This page looks at how you can become a crofting tenant. Between 400-500 crofting tenancies change hands each year, but most pass between family members or to people the retiring crofter knows personally. However, tenancies do occasionally come up on the open market.

How can I get a croft?

There are four ways to become a crofter:

  • by taking over the tenancy of a vacant croft
  • by getting a tenancy assigned to you
  • by becoming a subtenant
  • by taking on part of a croft.

You can also become a crofter by inheriting a crofting tenancy from someone's will.

Can anyone become a crofting tenant?

Before a landlord can let you a croft on their estate, they must apply for permission from the Crofters Commission. To do this, they'll need to fill in a form – you can download the form from the Crofters Commission website. As the proposed tenant, you'll need to fill in part of the form, explaining:

  • how you plan to use the croft and contribute to the local community
  • what relevant skills and experience you have
  • when you want to move onto the land
  • who will live with you.

The landlord must also place an advert in a local paper to let people living in the area know about the proposed let, and to give them a chance to object.

When will the Commission intervene?

The Commission will need to look into the landlord's application (or 'intervene') if:

  • anyone in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • you live, or intend to live, more than 32 km (20 miles) away from the croft
  • you already own or are a tenant of a croft
  • you lack the knowledge, ability or experience to cultivate a croft or use the land well
  • the Commission is concerned about how you will use the land
  • you are the grazings clerk or a member of the grazings committee
  • the landlord is an organisation or company, and you are a member or employee, or related to a member or employee, of that organisation or company
  • the Commission is concerned that it won't be in the interests of the estate of which the croft is a part or the local crofting community for you to take over the tenancy.

If the Commission refuses to approve the application, the tenant can appeal.

TIP: If you're taking on a crofting tenancy, it's very important to make sure that the landowner has gone through the correct process and got consent from the Commission. If they haven't, your tenancy won't be legally binding and you won't have any rights.

Find out more about getting consent from the Commission.

How can I find a vacant tenancy?

Crofting tenancies don't come onto the open market often, and are in great demand. If you're interested in taking over the tenancy of a croft, there are several things you can do:

  • Check advertisements in local papers such as the Oban Times, Stornoway Gazette, West Highland Free Press, Shetland Times and Press and Journal.
  • Place a 'wanted' advert in a local paper.
  • Contact landlords of crofting estates to find out if they have any vacant tenancies.
  • Contact local solicitors and estate agents who specialise in crofting – use the Crofting Law Group, Law Society of Scotland and UK Property Shop websites to find contact details.
  • Contact the Scottish Crofting Federation.
  • Speak to current crofters – some may be willing to release some land for you to use as croft land (see 'can crofts be divided' below).

How can I be assigned a tenancy?

If you are related to or know a crofter who wishes to give up their tenancy, you can ask them to assign (or transfer) their tenancy to you.

The transfer will need to be approved by the Crofters Commission. If you are assigned a tenancy, it's important to make sure the Commission has definitely approved the transfer, otherwise it won't be legally binding. This means the Commission will be able to declare the croft vacant and evict you from the land (see 'what if I don't have a legal tenancy' below).

As part of the process of applying for consent from the Commission, the crofter will need to notify their landlord, and advertise the proposed assignation in the local paper, to let people living in the area know about the proposed transfer and give them a chance to object.

When will the Commission intervene?

The Commission will intervene if:

  • the crofter's landlord or anyone else in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • you aren't related to the crofter assigning the tenancy and:
    • you live, or intend to live, more than 32 km (20 miles) away from the croft, or
    • you already own or are a tenant of a croft, or
    • you lack the knowledge, ability or experience to cultivate a croft or use the land well, or
    • the Commission is concerned about how you'll use the land, or
    • you're the grazings clerk or a member of the grazings committee, or
    • the landlord of the croft is an organisation or company, and you are a member or employee, or related to a member or employee, of that organisation or company
    • they are concerned that it won't be in the interests of the estate of which the croft is a part or the local crofting community for you to take over the tenancy.

You'll count as being related to the crofter if they are your:

  • husband, wife or civil partner
  • partner (provided they don't have a husband, wife or civil partner and you've been living together on the croft for at least two years)
  • brother or sister or their husband, wife or civil partner (including half or adopted brothers and sisters)
  • husband, wife or civil partner's brother or sister
  • father or mother
  • son or daughter or their spouse or civil partner (including adopted children or children by marriage or civil partnership)
  • partner's son or daughter, provided that the son or daughter has been living with you on the croft for at least two years
  • grandchild or their spouse or civil partner
  • aunt or uncle
  • nephew or niece.

If the Commission turns the application down, you can appeal.

Find out more about assignation and getting consent from the Commission.

Will I have to pay the outgoing tenant any compensation?

You may need to pay the crofter assigning you their tenancy some compensation for any improvements to the croft land (for example, for the croft house, farm buildings, fences, roads and ditches). It's up to you and the outgoing tenant to agree on a suitable sum.

What are my rights if I'm assigned a tenancy?

If you are assigned a tenancy, you'll have the same rights as the outgoing tenant. This means that if the crofter has contracted out of any of their legal rights, such as the right to buy, you won't have that right either. Read the page on crofters' rights to find out more.

How do I become a subtenant?

It's also possible to rent all or part of a croft from an existing tenant, and become a subtenant. For example, you may rent the croft house and garden, or part of the agricultural land. The crofter must get permission from the Crofters Commission to sublet the land to you, and they will also need to notify their landlord and advertise the proposed assignation in the local paper, to give people living in the area a chance to object.

If the crofter hasn't got permission, your subtenancy won't be legally binding, which means you won't have any rights and can be evicted from the land easily (see 'what if I don't have a legal tenancy' below).

When will the Commission intervene?

The Commission will intervene if:

  • your landlord or anyone else in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • they're concerned about the use you intend to make of the croft
  • you're not going to live on or within 32 km (20 miles) of the croft
  • they're concerned that it won't be in the interests of the estate of which the croft is a part or the local crofting community for you to become a subtenant.

If the Commission refuses permission, you can appeal.

Find out more about getting consent from the Commission.

What are my rights as a subtenant?

Subtenants don't have the same rights as crofting tenants, for example, you won't have the right to assign your subtenancy. The Commission will give you and your landlord a contract setting out required and suggested terms and conditions for your tenancy, including the length of the let, which can't be longer than 10 years.

Read the page on subtenants' rights to find out more.

Can I become a joint tenant?

No. Crofting tenancies can't be held jointly.

Can crofts be divided?

Crofters can divide their land and assign the divided part to someone else, but only with the consent of the Crofters Commission. The Commission will intervene if:

  • your landlord or anyone else in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • the crofter wants to divide their land into more than two crofts
  • the croft to be divided has been divided before
  • they are concerned that it won't be in the interests of the estate of which the croft is a part or the local crofting community for the croft to be divided.

If the Commission refuses permission, you can appeal – read the page on getting consent from the Commission to find out how.

The tenant will then need to apply to the Commission to assign the tenancy of the divided part of the croft to you.

Again, if the Commission hasn't given consent, your tenancy won't be legal.

What happens when I become a tenant?

Before you take on the tenancy, you and your landlord will need to sign a tenancy agreement or contract, setting out your rights and responsibilities. Make sure you discuss the contract with a solicitor who specialises in crofting law before you sign it, and ask them to explain anything you don't understand.

What if I don't have a legal tenancy?

If the Crofters Commission finds out you're renting a croft without their permission, they'll send you a notice in writing ordering you to move out. They must give you at least a month's notice to leave. If you still don't leave, they can apply to the sheriff court for an order to evict you.

Can I convert my land into a croft?

If you're a tenant of an agricultural smallholding but you don't have a 1991 Act, limited duration or short limited duration tenancy, you can apply to the Crofters Commission to have the land registered as a croft, even if it's outside the 'crofting counties'.

If you own land within the crofting counties, you can apply to the Commission to have this land registered as a croft.

You can find out more about this from the Crofters Commission.

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