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Eviction from a crofting tenancy

Make sure you know the grounds for eviction from a croft and the eviction process if you're a crofter, and find out where you can get help and advice if you're threatened with eviction. Youc an also check the other ways in which your tenancy may be ended. If you have to leave the croft, you should be entitled to compensation for any improvements you've made to the land.

What can I be evicted for?

There are three main grounds or reasons for eviction from a crofting tenancy. You can be evicted if:

  • you haven't paid your rent for a year
  • you break any of the statutory conditions (other than the condition about paying rent)
  • you misuse or neglect your croft.

In addition:

  • The Crofters Commission can end your tenancy if you aren't living on the croft or working the land properly.
  • Your landlord can take back the land if they have a good reason to do so - this is known as resumption.
  • In special circumstances, the Scottish Ministers can apply to the Land Court for your removal from the land.

I'm being evicted for non-payment of rent

If you haven't paid your rent for a year, your landlord can apply to the Land Court for an order to evict you. If they do, you'll be sent a notice asking you to attend a hearing. It's very important that you attend the hearing, because this is your opportunity to put forward your side of the story, and to explain why you should be allowed to remain on the land. For example, you may have worked out a payment plan for paying back the arrears, or the arrears may be due to problems with housing benefit.

A solicitor or adviser will be able to help you put together a case, and a solicitor can also represent you in court.

The court will take your representations into account before deciding whether or not to grant an order:

  • terminating the tenancy,
  • declaring the croft to be vacant, and
  • removing you from the croft.

You can find out more about the Land Court here.

I'm being evicted for breaking the statutory conditions

The statutory conditions are set down in the Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993. They are a list of responsibilities that you must keep to in order to retain your tenancy.

Eviction action by your landlord

In some cases, if your landlord thinks you're breaching any of the statutory conditions, they must send you a written notice to let you know this, so you can put the problem right. This is the case if they believe you are not cultivating the land properly, or are injuring the croft in some way.

If you don't put the problem right, or if you break any of the other statutory conditions, your landlord can apply to the Land Court for an order to end your tenancy and evict you.

At the court hearing, you'll get a chance to put forward your side of the story and explain why you should remain on the land. For example, you may need more time to put the problem right, or you may have good reason for the problem arising, such as illness. An adviser or solicitor can help you prepare for the hearing, and a solicitor can also represent you at court.

The court will take your representations into account before deciding whether or not to grant an order:

  • terminating the tenancy, and
  • declaring the croft to be vacant, and
  • removing you from the croft.

You can find out more about the Land Court here.

Eviction action by the Crofters Commission

Your landlord also has the option of complaining to the Crofters Commission if you breach any of the conditions (aside from the condition about paying rent). In addition, any crofters living nearby can complain to the Commission if they think you're breaking any of the conditions.

The Commission must then send you a written notice and give you a chance to put the situation right within a specified, reasonable time limit.

If you don't meet this deadline and your landlord isn't already taking action to sort out the problem, the Commission can then apply to the Land Court about the breach of conditions. However, they must let your landlord know that they're doing this and give them 14 days to object.

If the Land Court agrees that you have breached the conditions, it can order you to:

  • put the problem right within a certain time limit
  • pay compensation to your landlord.

If you don't comply with this order, the Commission can ask the Land Court for an order to:

  • end your tenancy, and
  • declare the croft vacant, and
  • remove you from the land.

When your case calls at the Land Court, you'll have the chance to explain your situation, and the Land Court will take your representations into account before making a decision. An adviser or solicitor can help you prepare for the hearing, and a solicitor can represent you at court.

You can find out more about the Land Court here.

I'm being evicted for misuse or neglect of the land

What is misuse?

You could be accused of misusing the land if you wilfully and knowingly use it for something other than cultivation or another useful purpose you've agreed with the landlord or the Crofters Commission, such as forestry or renewable energy. For example, this could be the case if you've been holding big parties or raves on your land, or using it for tourism purposes without clearing this with your landlord first.

What happens if I'm misusing the land?

If you're misusing the land, your landlord, or the Commission with your landlord's consent, must write to you about the problem and ask you to put a stop to it within 42 days.

If you continue to misuse the land after this deadline, your landlord or the Commission can apply to the Land Court for an order to:

  • end your tenancy, and
  • declare the croft vacant, and
  • remove you from the land.

The court will consider the application. If it's minded to make an order, you'll be sent a notice to let you know that an order will be made in 42 days, unless you can satisfy the court in that time that the croft is no longer being misused.

What is neglect?

You may be neglecting your croft if it doesn't meet good agricultural and environmental standards. This could be the case if, for example, you aren't taking steps to:

  • prevent soil erosion and keep the soil in good condition
  • ensure grazing land is used properly
  • maintain boundaries such as fences and walls
  • keep down weeds.

What happens if I'm neglecting the land?

If they believe you are neglecting the land, your landlord, or the Crofters Commission with your landlord's consent, can go straight to the Land Court without sending you a written notice first.

If the court decides to make an order, it must let you know. However, it won't actually make the order if:

  • you agree that there has been neglect and you undertake to put it right, and
  • you do so within a year.

If you're hauled up for neglect a second time within the next five years, your landlord or the Commission should first write to you and give you a chance to end the neglectful behaviour within 42 days, before applying to the Land Court.

This time, if the court decides to make an order, it'll give you written notice of 42 days. If, during that time, you can show you're not neglecting the croft or have put right any neglect, the court won't make the order.

Are there any exceptions?

Anything you do to conserve the natural beauty of the land or its flora and fauna won't count as misuse or neglect, for example, keeping a field as natural meadowland for wild flowers to grow, or preserving an animal's natural habitat.

If you were using your land for an additional (or 'ancillary') purpose that was permitted before the Crofting Reform Act was introduced in 2007, this will continue to be considered a good use of the land.

Where can I get help and advice?

Get advice from an adviser or solicitor if you're in this situation. They will be able to help you deal with the Land Court, and clear up any misunderstandings that may have arisen over how you use the land. Call Shelter Scotland's free housing advice helpline 0808 800 4444.

If I go bankrupt can I be evicted for that?

The statutory conditions state that you must remain solvent to retain your crofting tenancy. Therefore, if you go bankrupt, you could be evicted for breaking the conditions. Even if you're not evicted, your tenancy will be seen as an asset, so you could be forced to give it up in return for compensation for leaving your crofting tenancy to pay off your debts.

Talk to a money adviser or a solicitor who specialises in crofting law if you're in this situation.

If I don't live on my croft can I be evicted for that?

Crofters have a responsibility to live on their crofts and look after the land. Therefore, if you need to move away for a while, you must get in touch with the Crofters Commission and let them know how the land will be cared for in your absence. For example, you may arrange for a family member to run the croft while you're away, or you could sublet your land until your return.

It's very important you do this, because the Commission has the power to end your tenancy if:

  • you don't normally live on or within 10 miles (16 km) of the croft, and
  • it's in the general interest of the local crofting community to end your tenancy and let the land to someone else.

The Commission doesn't end crofting tenancies lightly, so they will try to come to a voluntary agreement with you before taking further action. For example, they may recommend that you:

What can the Commission do?

If you refuse to cooperate, the Commission can decide to make an order to end your tenancy. In this case, they must let you and your landlord know six months before the order is due to take effect, to give you both time to object and ask for a hearing. This will give you a chance to try to persuade the Commission to let you keep your tenancy.

If, at the end of the six months, the Commission decides to confirm the order, they must let you know three months before the date the order takes effect. Your tenancy will end at least three months after that date, either at Whitsunday (30 May) or at Martinmas (30 November). There must be at least three months between the date of the order and the date you have to leave the land, so, for example, if the order is made on 30 April, you won't need to give up your tenancy until the following Martinmas.

What if I don't leave?

If you or any of your family is living on the croft at the time and you don't leave when you're asked to, the Commission can apply to the sheriff court for a warrant of ejection. You may have to pay the court expenses for this, so it's in your best interests to leave when you're asked.

Where can I get help and advice?

Get advice from an adviser or solicitor if you're in this situation. They will be able to help you deal with the Commission and make a case to keep your tenancy. 

I'm being evicted by the Scottish Ministers

In special circumstances, the Scottish Ministers can also apply to the Land Court for your removal. This is only relevant if you've taken out a loan from the Government and have used as security for the loan the compensation you'll get for improvements you've made to the croft land. In this case, Scottish Ministers can apply to the Land Court if:

  • you abandon your croft, or
  • you break any of the statutory conditions (other than the non-payment of rent), or
  • you break any of the conditions of repayment of the loan.

The court will listen to objections from you and your landlord before deciding whether or not to evict you.

Will I still get compensation if I'm evicted from my croft?

If you're evicted, you'll still be entitled to compensation for any improvements you've made to the croft. However, your landlord can deduct any rent you owe from the final sum.

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The important points

  • You can be evicted from a crofting tenancy because you haven't paid your rent for a year, you've broken one of the other stautory conditions, or you've misused or neglected your croft.
  • The other ways you might lose your croft are by the Crofters Commission ending your tenancy, your landlord having a good reason to take back the land (called resumption) or in special circumstances the Scottish Ministers can apply to the Land Court to have you removed.
  • The Crofting Commission can end your tenancy if you don't live on or near enough to your croft to be able to look after it.

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