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Crofters' responsibilities

Taking on a crofting tenancy is a big responsibility, and there are certain terms and conditions you must stick to as a crofter if you want to retain your tenancy. These are set down in the Crofting Acts, and are known as 'statutory conditions'.

What are 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. The aim of the conditions is to ensure you look after your croft properly, and maintain a good relationship with your landlord.

Paying rent

You must pay your rent to your landlord. If you don't pay your rent for a year, your landlord has the right to evict you.

Cultivating the land or putting it to good use

In order to retain your tenancy, you must cultivate the land or put it to some other useful purpose.

What does cultivating the land involve?

Cultivation includes:

  • keeping livestock, poultry or bees
  • growing fruit, vegetables or other crops
  • planting trees and using land as woodland.

You also need to keep the land in a fit state of cultivation, for example, by keeping down pests, vermin and harmful weeds.

What is a 'useful purpose'?

A useful purpose for the land can be any planned or managed use that isn't harmful to the croft or the surrounding area, and doesn't go against public interest or the interests of your landlord. This could include using the land for forestry, tourism, or renewable energy. Bear in mind that you must get consent from your landlord or the Crofters Commission to use your land in this way – the page on crofters' rights explains more.

Are there any exceptions?

You won't be accused of breaking this condition if you do (or don't do) anything to the land in order to conserve its natural beauty or preserve the flora and fauna living there, for example, by keeping a field as natural meadowland for wild flowers to grow, or protecting 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.

Providing your own fixed equipment

It's up to you, not your landlord, to provide any fixed equipment required to cultivate your land. Fixed equipment includes:

  • permanent buildings such as outhouses and barns
  • fences, hedges and gates
  • ditches and ponds
  • water and sewerage systems
  • roads, bridges and fords
  • electrical equipment, such as generators, fixed motors and wiring systems.

When you end your tenancy, you should be entitled to compensation for any fixed equipment you leave on the croft.

Not damaging the croft in any way

You must ensure the croft isn't damaged in any way. This means that:

  • you mustn't allow any buildings on the land to become dilapidated
  • if you are cultivating the land, you mustn't let the soil deteriorate - your landlord must send you a notice if they believe you are allowing this to happen
  • you mustn't do anything which will be harmful to other uses you have for the land, such as forestry or tourism – again, your landlord must send you a notice if they think this is the case.

Getting the relevant permissions

You must get consent from the Crofters Commission to do any of the following:

  • assign your tenancy
  • sublet your land
  • divide your land.

The page on crofters' rights explains more about this.

In addition, you must get written consent from your landlord if you want to:

  • build a second home on the land, unless you want to knock down the existing croft house and build a new one
  • sell alcohol on the land.

Being responsible for any subtenants

If you sublet all or part of your land, you are responsible for ensuring that your subtenant adheres to the statutory conditions. This means that if the subtenant breaks any of the conditions, both you and they could face eviction.

Keeping to any other terms you've agreed to

You mustn't break any other written conditions you've signed, for example, in your tenancy agreement, or in any other agreements which have been set up to protect the interests of your landlord or any neighbouring crofters. If your landlord or the Crofters Commission tries to evict you for breaking this statutory condition, the Land Court must agree that it was reasonable to expect you to keep to that particular written condition.

Not going bankrupt

Crofters have a responsibility to remain solvent. If you go bankrupt, you may lose your tenancy.

Allowing access to the land

You have to let your landlord or people working on their behalf to have access to the land to do the following:

  • mining
  • quarrying
  • using springs of water which you don't need
  • cutting or taking timber or peat (although this doesn't apply to any peat you need for the croft, or to timber that you or any previous tenants planted, or which you need)
  • opening or building roads, fences, drains and water courses
  • examining the state of the croft and any improvements you've made to the land
  • hunting, shooting or fishing
  • getting to and from the shore of a loch or the sea in order to exercise any of their rights (such as fishing).

However, your landlord may need to pay you compensation in return for exercising these rights. If you can't agree on a suitable sum between you, the Land Court can set the amount. In addition, your landlord must exercise these rights reasonably.

What if I don't stick to the statutory conditions?

If you break any of the statutory conditions, you run the risk of being evicted from the land. Read the page on eviction to find out more.

Are there any other responsibilities I need to keep to?

In addition to the statutory conditions, you have two further legal responsibilities.

Living on the land

Crofters have a responsibility to live on and work the land. Although this is not a statutory condition in the Crofting Acts, it's very important that you bear this in mind, because the Crofters Commission has the power to end your tenancy and declare your croft vacant if you live more than 32 km (approx 20 miles) away from your croft.

Therefore, if you need to leave your croft for a while, you must get in touch with the Commission and let them know how you plan to look after the land while you're away. For example, you may arrange for a family member to run the croft while you're away, or to sublet your land until your return.

If you decide you're no longer able to or no longer want to work the land, you could consider buying your croft house site and garden and getting the land decrofted. Another crofter could then take over the tenancy of the land. Alternatively, you could give up your tenancy altogether or assign it to someone else.

Providing the Commission with information about the croft

You must provide the Commission with information about the size and boundaries, tenancy and rent of the croft if they send you a notice asking you to do so. This is not a statutory condition, so you can't be evicted if you fail to do this. However, if you don't send the Commission the information they require within three months of the notice, or you knowingly give false information, this is an offence and you may be fined.

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The important points

  • You must pay your rent to your landlord. If you don't pay your rent for a year, your landlord has the right to evict you.
  • In order to retain your tenancy, you must cultivate the land or put it to some other useful purpose.
  • It's up to you, not your landlord, to provide any fixed equipment required to cultivate your land.
  • If you sublet all or part of your land, you are responsible for ensuring that your subtenant adheres to the statutory conditions.

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