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Crofters' right to buy

Crofting tenants have the right to buy their croft house and garden, and the right to apply to buy the entire croft land. This page explains more.

Do I have the right to buy my croft house site and garden?

If you are a crofting tenant, you have the right to buy the site of your home on the croft and an appropriate area of garden. According to the Crofters Commission, 0.1-0.2 hectares (0.25-0.5 acres) is a reasonable size for the house site and garden. This is an absolute right – your landlord can't refuse to sell the croft house site and garden to you. If they do, you can apply to the Land Court for an order authorising the sale.

However, you only have the right to buy one house site, so if there's more than one house on the croft (for example, if you live in one, and your parents or children occupy another), you'll need to choose which one you want to buy. If you have already bought your house site and then build a new house on the remaining croft land, you won't have an absolute right to buy the site of the new house as well.

Do I have the right to buy my croft land?

You also have a right to apply to your landlord to buy the croft land you rent, and any part of the common grazings that are next to the land, but this isn't an absolute right, and your landlord may turn your application down. In this case, you can apply to the Land Court for an order authorising the sale.

The Land Court can either:

  • issue an order authorising you go to ahead with the purchase and requiring your landlord to sell the land to you, or
  • refuse your application.

If the Land Court authorises the sale, the order will specify the area of land to be bought and lay down terms and conditions if necessary. For example, the court may decide that you should pay your landlord's selling costs.

The Land Court can refuse your application if:

  • selling the land would cause a substantial degree of hardship to your landlord, or
  • selling the land would seriously harm the good management of your landlord's estate.

However, landlords tend not to rely on these grounds to prevent sales, as they usually have to present a very good case for the Land Court to refuse an application on these grounds.

What if the landlord still won't go through with the sale?

If the Land Court makes an order requiring your landlord to sell you your croft house site and garden or croft land, this order will last for two years, unless you and your landlord agree otherwise in writing.

If, at the end of the two years, your landlord still won't go through with the sale, you can complain to the Land Court and the principal clerk at the court will arrange the conveyancing (the legal work involved in transferring ownership of the property) for you.

How do I go about buying my croft house site or croft land?

If you're interested in exercising your right to buy, the first thing you should do is talk to your landlord about it. You'll need to negotiate the extent of the land to be bought, the price and other terms and conditions.

You'll also need to look at your financial situation, to make sure you can afford the purchase (see 'can I get a mortgage' below).

Will I need a solicitor and a surveyor?

You'll need a solicitor to help you negotiate with your landlord and to carry out the conveyancing for you. You can find out more about solicitors and solicitors' fees here.

You'll also need to get the land surveyed, to help you assess the value. You can find solicitors and surveyors who specialises in crofting law at the Crofting Law Group website.

How much will the house site and garden cost?

You and your landlord need to agree the selling price of the croft house site and garden between you. If you can't agree, you can ask the Land Court to set the price for you. This will be based on the value of the land alone, not the house on it, and will be worked out as if:

  • the land was being sold on the open market as agricultural land, and
  • it was being sold by a willing seller, without any tenants, and
  • no development would be allowed on the land.

If your landlord provided the house or any other buildings or fixed equipment, you'll need to pay them an extra sum.

How much will the croft land cost?

Again, if you and your landlord can't agree on a price for the croft land, you can ask the Land Court to set a price for you. This will usually be 15 times the annual rent for the land. If the rent hasn't been reviewed for more than seven years, your landlord can ask the Land Court to set a fair rent first. If you then change your mind and decide not to buy the land, you'll have to pay the new rent afterwards.

Can I get a mortgage to buy my croft?

If you can't afford to buy your croft outright, you'll need to get a mortgage. If you have problems getting a mortgage, a solicitor who specialises in crofting law should be able to help you find a suitable lender.

Are there any other costs?

You'll also need to pay your solicitor's fees, Land and Building Transaction Tax and in some cases you may have to pay your landlord's legal expenses too.

What happens when I buy my croft?

Once you have bought your croft, it will still be subject to the Crofting Acts, unless you have applied to the Crofters Commission to have the land decrofted (see 'what if I don't want to work the land as a croft' below). This means that you will be the landlord of a vacant croft.  You therefore need to get in touch with the Crofters Commission as soon as possible and let them know what you're planning to do with the croft, for example, whether you're going to:

  • live on the croft and work the land, or
  • let out the land to someone else.

It's important that you do this because if the Crofters Commission discovers that a croft is empty, they can advertise for a new tenant themselves. They'll then decide which of the applicants to let the croft to, and will work out the terms and conditions of the tenancy with you.

Remember, if you let the land out, your tenant will have all the rights of a crofter, including the right to buy the land from you, unless you specifically agree otherwise when you set up their tenancy agreement.

The page on buying a croft on the open market has more information on croft owners' rights and responsibilities.

Will I get all the rights that come with the land?

When you buy the land, you won't get all the rights that come with it. For example, you won't get the rights to any mines, metals or minerals on the land, unless your landlord specifically sells these rights to you. If the sale will affect your landlord's shooting and fishing rights, you'll need to lease these back to them for a nominal amount of rent.

You will, however, have the same peat cutting rights as you did when you were a tenant, as long as you live in the croft house.

What if i want to decroft?

If you don't want to work the land as a croft once you've bought it, you should apply to the Crofters Commission before the sale goes through, to have the land decrofted when you buy it. You can also apply for a decrofting direction for the croft house site and garden at any time after you've bought it through the right to buy.

The Commission should give you a decrofting direction for the croft house site and garden automatically, provided they're satisfied that the garden is a suitable size. However, they'll only give a decrofting direction for the croft land if they're satisfied that it'll be put to good use which will benefit the estate, the local crofting community or the public interest. If there are a lot of people in the area who would like to take on a crofting tenancy, the Commission may decide not to grant a decrofting direction for the land.

Can I get a loan or grant when I buy my croft?

If you buy your house site and garden, you can apply for a grant or loan under the Croft House Grant Scheme (CHGS) for building or improving the croft house for up to seven years after the sale has gone through.

If you can prove that you still have a similar economic status to a crofting tenant, you can also apply for agricultural grants under the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme (CCAGS), to help you build or improve agricultural buildings and other farm equipment. Before you buy your croft, you can write to the Crofters Commission to check whether you'll be entitled to CCAGS after you've bought the land.

If you already have a loan from the Scottish Government or Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), this will usually become a mortgage loan when you buy your croft, so your home could be repossessed if you default on your payments.

You can find out more about grants and loans for crofters here.

What happens to my rent if I only buy part of the land?

If you only buy your croft house site or part of the land, you'll need to agree a new rent level with your landlord for the remaining land. If you can't agree, you can ask the Land Court to set a fair rent, even if your last fair rent was set fewer than seven years ago.

What if I want to sell the croft?

If you sell the croft land (or any part of the land) within ten years of buying it to anyone other than a family member, your landlord will probably be entitled to a share in the profits. This doesn't apply to the croft house site or the garden.

This sum will be half of the difference between the price you paid and the market value of the land at the time of the sale (this can be set by the Land Court if you and your landlord can't agree). When setting the market value, the court won't take into account any improvements you've carried out, and will assume that no development will be allowed on the land.

What is the crofting community right to buy?

Under new laws introduced in 2003, crofting communities can apply to the Scottish Ministers for the right to buy crofting land where they live and work from the landlord who owns it. You can find out more about the crofting community right to buy at the Scottish Government website.

If you've bought your croft from your landlord using the right to buy, your land can't then be included in a crofting community right to buy application.

If a crofting community body buys your croft while you're still a tenant, you will retain your right to buy, although it will be temporarily suspended while the crofting community right to buy application is going through. Once the application has gone through, you can apply to buy your croft from the community.

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The important points

  • If you are a crofting tenant, you have the right to buy the site of your home on the croft and an appropriate area of garden.
  • This is an absolute right – your landlord can't refuse to sell the croft house site and garden to you.
  • You also have a right to apply to your landlord to buy the croft land you rent, and any part of the common grazings that are next to the land, but this isn't an absolute right.
  • If you're interested in buying your croft, the first thing you should do is talk to your landlord about it. You'll need to negotiate the extent of the land to be bought, the price and other terms and conditions.

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