Short limited duration tenancies (SLDTs)
Short limited duration tenancies (SLDTs) were introduced in the Agricultural Holdings Scotland Act of 2003. If you have taken on an agricultural tenancy since then and your lease lasts for five years or less, you will probably have an SLDT. This gives you fewer rights than other agricultural tenants.
How do I know if I have a short limited duration tenancy?
You will probably have a short limited duration tenancy if:
you rent agricultural land or have a farm business tenancy and
your tenancy began after 2003, and
your lease lasts no longer than five years, and
you don't have a short let for grazing or mowing (a lease of less than 364 days, held during a specified period of the year), and
you aren't employed by your landlord - if you are, you'll probably be an agricultural occupier, service occupier or service tenant.
If you rent the land for longer than five years (either under a succession of SLDTs or because your landlord has allowed you to remain on the land for more than five years) your tenancy will automatically be converted to a limited duration tenancy (LDT). This will give you many more rights.
You don't have to live on the land itself to be an agricultural tenant.
What are my rights?
As a short limited duration tenant, you have rights that are protected by law. These include:
the right to a written lease
when the tenancy ends, the right to get compensation for any improvement to the agricultural property for any improvements you've carried out, and possibly other compensation payments as well
the right to leave your tenancy to someone in your will.
These rights should be set out in the lease you have with your landlord. If your lease doesn't contain these rights, get legal advice from a solicitor specialising in agricultural law. In most cases, your landlord shouldn't be able to take these rights away from you, for example by including clauses in your lease which contradict them.
It's important to get legal advice before entering into a lease with a landlord. A solicitor will be able to look at the terms and conditions of the agreement and check that they are fair and legally binding.
What should a written lease contain?
Before your tenancy starts, your landlord should provide you with a written lease, setting out the terms and conditions of the tenancy. If you don't have a written lease, or if your lease doesn't cover all the points listed below, you can ask your landlord to supply one, and they must do so within six months. If they refuse, or if you can't agree on the terms and conditions, you can go to the Land Court and they can decide the terms and conditions of the tenancy for you.
The lease must include:
your name and the name of your landlord (the parties of the lease)
a description of the land you're renting (the subjects of the lease)
how long you'll be renting it for (the duration or term of the lease) - if different parts of the land are let for different lengths of time, this should also be stated here
how much the rent is and when you need to pay it
a list of all the fixed equipment on the land
additional information about responsibility for repairs to fixed equipment (see 'who is responsible for repairs' below)
details of your landlord's responsibility to insure the property against fire damage and repair any damage caused by fire, and your responsibility to insure the crops and stock against fire damage.
The lease may also contain other terms and conditions, but these can't include anything which might prevent you from farming the land properly or take away your legal rights.
Who is responsible for repairs?
You and your landlord both have certain responsibilities to maintain the fixed equipment on the land you are renting.
Fixed equipment includes:
permanent buildings such as farm houses, cottages 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.
The page on repairs and improvements explains your rights and responsibilities in more detail.
Although your lease should list all the equipment on the land, there is no legal requirement for you and your landlord to keep an ongoing record of the condition the equipment is in, and any repairs or improvements either of you carry out. However, it's a good idea to do this, as it will help avoid disputes in the future. You could consider keeping written records, supplemented by photos or videotaped evidence.
What happens when my lease ends?
Your written lease should say how long your tenancy lasts and when your lease expires. However, if your landlord doesn't ask you to leave and you continue living or working on the land and paying rent, you won't have to leave on this date. If your lease was for less than five years and you stay on after the date expires, your tenancy will now by default last for five years, unless you and your landlord agree to a shorter duration. Alternatively, you and your landlord may decide to negotiate a new short limited duration tenancy.
Remember, if your tenancy goes on for longer than five years, it will automatically be converted to a limited duration tenancy.
The page on eviction at the end of a limited or short limited duration lease has more information.
Can my landlord or I end the tenancy before my lease expires?
Before your lease is up, your tenancy can only be ended if:
you and your landlord agree to end it, or
you break a term of your lease, or
your landlord needs the land back for non-agricultural purposes.
Eviction before the end of your limited or short limited duration lease explains this in more detail.
Can my landlord or I change the rent?
There are no laws governing rent levels for short limited duration tenancies. This means you and your landlord are free to negotiate over how much you will pay and how often the amount can go up. This agreement should be included in your lease.
Can I use the land for anything other than agriculture?
No, short limited duration tenants cannot use the land for non-agricultural purposes.
Can I sublet the land?
Short limited duration tenants don't have the right to sublet any part of the land they rent to another tenant.
Can I pass on my tenancy to someone else?
As a short limited duration tenant, you don't have the right to assign your tenancy to anyone else.
Can I leave my tenancy to someone in my will?
You have a right to leave your tenancy to any of the following people:
your husband, wife or civil partner
a blood relative (for example, a child, brother, sister or parent)
your daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
Do I have the 'right to buy' my short limited duration tenancy?
No, only 1991 Act tenants have this right.
Resources for tenant farmers
The following organisations may be able to provide you with further advice or support:
Scottish Land Commission includes free access to guidance documents on a wide range of issues affecting tenant farmers in Scotland
If you're a member of the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFUS) you can call their free legal helpline for advice.
If you're a member of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, you can access a professional panel of chartered surveyors, valuers, solicitors and accountants.
Shelter Scotland can provide you with general advice in relation to to your housing rights. However, with an agricultural tenancy your home is also your business. Because of this, if there is a dispute between you and your landlord then usually you will need to seek assistance from a solicitor.
Last updated: 24 February 2021