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Crofters' rights

Check your housing rights if you rent a croft from a landowner. Your rights are set out in law, in the Crofting Acts, regulated by the Crofting Commission and are written down in your tenancy agreement.

How long does a crofting tenancy last?

A crofting tenancy will last until either you or your landlord ends it.

Can I assign my tenancy?

You can only assign (or transfer) your tenancy and/or your share in the common grazing to someone else with the consent of the Crofting Commission. You'll also need to notify your landlord, and advertise the proposed assignation in the local paper, to let people living in the area know and give them a chance to object. It's a good idea to discuss the proposed transfer in advance with your landlord, the local grazing committee and other people in the crofting community, so you can sort out any concerns or problems before you make your application.

If your croft is currently being sublet, you must give your subtenant at least six months' notice before assigning the tenancy (read the page on subtenants' rights for more on this).

If you don't get permission, the transfer won't be legally binding and the Commission could declare the croft vacant and find a new tenant for it.

When will the Crofting Commission intervene?

The Commission will look into your application if:

  • your landlord or anyone else in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • the person you're assigning the tenancy to is not a member of your family and:
    • they live, or intend to live, more than 32 km (20 miles) away from the croft, or
    • they already own or are a tenant of a croft, or
    • they lack the knowledge, ability or experience to cultivate a croft or use the land well
    • they are the grazings clerk or a member of the grazings committee
    • the Commission are concerned about how the assignee will use the land
    • your landlord is an organisation or company, and the assignee is a member or employee, or related to a member or employee, of that organisation or company
  • the Commission 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 proposed assignee to take over the tenancy.

If you're not happy with the Commission's decision, you can appeal to the Land Court.

You can find out more about getting consent from the Commission here.

Who counts as a member of my family?

A person counts as a member of your family 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.

What about the terms and conditions of the transfer?

The assignee will have the same terms and conditions in their tenancy as you. However, it's up to you and the assignee to work out the terms and conditions of the transfer itself, including how much compensation they will pay you for any permanent improvements you've made to the land (for example, the croft house, farm buildings, fences, roads and ditches).

Where can I find out more?

The Crofting Commission has a useful leaflet about assignation, which includes information on assigning common grazing land.

Can I sublet my croft?

You can sublet all or part of your croft for periods of up to 10 years, provided you get permission from the Crofting Commission. You'll also need to notify your landlord (although you don't need their permission), and you must advertise your plan in the local paper, to let people living in the area know and give them a chance to object.

When will the Crofting Commission intervene?

The Commission must look into the application if:

  • your landlord or anyone in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • there are reasonable grounds for concern about how the subtenant intends to use the land
  • the proposed subtenant won't live on or within 32 km (20 miles) of the land
  • 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 sublet to take place.

If you're not happy with the Commission's decision, you can appeal to the Land Court.

You can find out more about getting consent from the Commission here.

What are the terms and conditions of the subtenancy?

Crofting subtenants don't have the same rights as crofters, but they must stick to the responsibilities (or statutory conditions) set out in the Crofting Acts. It's up to you to keep an eye on them and ensure they do.

The Crofting Commission may impose some conditions on the subtenancy (for example, they may want your subtenant to work the land in the same way as you do) and will give you a contract with required and suggested terms and conditions for the let. However, the Commission can't make conditions concerning the rent – this is for you and the subtenant to agree between you.

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

Can I let out part of my croft to holiday guests?

You have the right to sublet part of your croft to holiday guests without getting permission from the Commission.

Can I leave my tenancy to someone in my will?

You have the right to leave your tenancy to anyone you like. However, you can only leave your tenancy to one individual - you can't, for example, divide the croft between your children - and you can't leave it to a company, organisation or institution.

If you leave your tenancy to someone who isn't a member of your family (see the section on assignation above for a list of family members), your landlord has the right to object. If the Commission upholds their objection, they can declare the bequest null and void. However, the person you leave the croft to has the right to appeal to the Land Court.

If you have a crofting tenancy, it's very important that you make a will, specifying clearly whom you want to leave your tenancy to. If you die without making a will, this can make things very difficult for your family, as the laws about who inherits crofting tenancies if a crofter dies intestate are complicated. A solicitor who specialises in crofting law will be able to advise you on making a will.

You can download a useful leaflet about succession to crofting tenancies at the Crofting Commission website.

Can I exchange crofts with another crofter?

Crofts (or part of crofts) can also be exchanged, provided that:

  • you have permission from your landlord and the Crofting Commission – you can find out more about getting consent from the Commission here
  • you and the person you're swapping with have the same landlord
  • the landlord is also the owner of any common grazing attached to the two crofts
  • the Commission is satisfied that the exchange is fair.

Can I divide my croft?

You may decide that you want to divide your croft to assign part of it to someone else, for example, a member of your family. Alternatively, if you wish to farm a smaller area, you can ask your landlord to re-let the divided part. You must get the consent of the Crofting Commission to divide the croft, and to assign the tenancy (see 'can I assign my tenancy' above).

If you decide to apply to divide the croft, you'll need to notify your landlord, and you must advertise your plan in the local paper, to let people living in the area know and give them a chance to object.

When will the Commission intervene?

The Commission must look into the application if:

  • your landlord or anyone in the local crofting community has valid objections to the proposal
  • you want to divide your land into more than two crofts
  • your croft was created by a division of another, larger croft
  • the Commission 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 division to take place.

If you're not happy with the Commission's decision, you can appeal to the Land Court.

You can find out more about getting consent from the Commission here.

What happens about the rent?

It's up to you and the tenant taking over the new croft to agree rent levels with your landlord. If you can't agree, you can take your case to the Land Court for a decision. Read the page on paying rent to find out more.

Can I make my croft any bigger?

You can enlarge your croft by agreeing with the landowner to take over a portion of non-crofting land and rent it as part of your croft. If the addition of the land makes your croft as a whole bigger than 30 hectares (excluding common grazing and pasture), you'll need to apply to the Commission for a 'direction', a type of order which gives you permission to do something. The Commission will grant you a direction if they're happy that the addition of the land will benefit the croft.

Otherwise, as long as you and the owner of the land agree, the landowner simply needs to let the Commission know that the croft has been enlarged, so they can update the Register of Crofts.

Can I use my land for anything I want?

You have a legal responsibility either to cultivate the land or to put it to some other useful purpose, such as forestry, tourism or renewable energy.

However, if you want to use the land for something other than cultivation, you must get your landlord's written permission first. Your landlord can impose conditions if they need to. For example, they may decide that you can only use part of the land for forestry, and must cultivate the remaining areas.

If you apply for your landlord's permission but they refuse or don't get back to you within 28 days, you can apply for consent from the Crofting Commission instead. Make sure you have any relevant permissions (such as building warrants or planning permission) in place first, because the Commission will ask to see them.

The Commission has 28 days to make a decision. During this time, they will consult with your landlord and members of the local crofting community about the proposed use of the land. It's a good idea to speak to people in the local community about your proposal before you put in your application, so you can discuss any concerns they have and sort out any problems.

The Commission will then let you know whether or not your application has been granted, and whether any conditions are attached.

If your application is turned down or you feel the conditions are unfair, you can appeal to the Land Court.

Do I have a right to a fair rent?

As a crofter, you only pay rent for the land. You don't pay rent for any house, buildings, fences, roads or other structures on the land because they belong to you.

If you can't agree on the rent with your landlord, you have the right to apply to the Land Court for a fair rent to be set. You can find out more about paying rent here.

Who is responsible for repairs?

Because the croft house, buildings and other fixed equipment on the land belong to you, you are responsible for keeping them in good repair – in fact, if you don't keep them well maintained, you will be breaking one of the statutory conditions of your tenancy, and could run the risk of being evicted.

If any of the buildings or fixed equipment belongs to your landlord, you will need to come to an agreement with them about responsibility for maintenance. This should be written into your tenancy agreement.

If you need to carry out repairs to your home, you may be able to get a grant or loan from the council in order to carry out the work, provided that you would be eligible for compensation for the work when your tenancy ends. You can find out more about the council's scheme of assistance here.

Am I entitled to compensation?

When you end your tenancy, you should get compensation for any permanent improvements you've made to the croft. You can find out about compensation for any improvements you've made to the croft land.

Does my landlord have to register with the council?

No. Because crofts are already regulated by the Crofting Commission, landlords do not need to register as private landlords with their local council.

What if I want to end the tenancy?

You can give up your tenancy at Whitsunday (28 May) or Martinmas (28 November) of any year, by giving your landlord one year's notice in writing. However, this notice period can be shortened if your landlord agrees.

You'll be entitled to compensatio for any improvements you've made to the croft, but your landlord can offset this against any rent you still owe.

What if my landlord wants to end the tenancy?

Your landlord can only end the tenancy in certain circumstances – the page on eviction from a crofting tenancy explains more. Again, you'll be entitled to compensation for improvements to the croft when your tenancy ends.

Can I buy my croft from my landlord?

Unless you have agreed with your landlord to waive your right to buy (see 'can these rights be taken away from me' below) you will be entitled to buy your croft house and an area of garden around it, and can apply to buy the croft land as well. Read the page on the crofters' right to buy to find out more.

Can these rights be taken away from me?

The rights listed above can't be taken away from you unless you and your landlord specifically agree otherwise and this is written down in your tenancy agreement. For example, you might agree that you will rent the land, but you won't have the right to buy it, or sublet it.

To contract out of any of your rights, you and your landlord must go through the proper procedures.

If the changes in rights relate to any of the following issues, you need to send a copy of the contract to the Crofting Commission, so they can enter it in the Register of Crofts:

  • assignation of your tenancy croft
  • right to buy
  • your right to a share in the value of any land resumed by your landlord
  • provisions relating to existing loans and mortgages
  • your right to a share in the value of the land if it's bought through a compulsory purchase order.

If the changes relate to anything else (for example, your right to sublet the land or to leave your tenancy to someone in your will), your landlord must get the contract approved by the Land Court. If the Land Court is happy with the contract, they'll notify the Commission and provide them with a copy, so they can enter it into the Register of Crofts.

Before you sign a contract that takes away any of your legal rights, it's important to discuss the matter with a solicitor who specialises in crofting law.

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The important points

  • A crofting tenancy will last until either you or your landlord ends it.
  • You can only assign your tenancy and/or your share in the common grazing to someone else with the consent of the Crofters Commission.
  • You can sublet all or part of your croft for periods of up to 10 years, provided you get permission from the Crofters Commission.
  • You have the right to leave your tenancy to anyone you like.

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