Short limited duration tenancies

Short limited duration tenancies (SLDTs) were introduced in 2003. If a tenant has taken on a lease for agricultural land of five years or less, they will probably have an SLDT. SLDTs offer fewer rights than other agricultural tenancies. 

This page explains what a short limited duration agricultural tenancy is, and gives an overview of tenants' rights.

This content applies to Scotland

Definition of a short limited duration tenancy

A tenant has a short limited duration tenancy (SLDT) if: [1]

  • they rent agricultural land, and

  • the tenancy began after 2003, and

  • the lease lasts no longer than five years, and

  • they do not have a short let for grazing or mowing (a lease of less than 364 days, held during a specified period of the year), and

  • they are not employed by their landlord – if this is the case, they will probably be an agricultural occupier, service occupier or service tenant. 

If a tenant rents the land for longer than five years (either under a succession of SLDTs or because their landlord has allowed them to remain on the land for more than five years) their tenancy will automatically be converted to a limited duration tenancy.[2] This will give the tenant many more rights.

The tenant does not need to live on the land itself to be an agricultural tenant. [3]

Right to a written lease

Short limited duration tenants have a right to a written lease. If the landlord does not provide a lease, or the lease does not include all the provisions listed below or includes terms and conditions that are inconsistent with these provisions, the tenant can request a valid written lease.

If, six months after requesting a new lease, the landlord has not supplied one, the tenant can apply to the Land Court to determine the terms and conditions of the lease. [4]

Provisions of the lease

General provisions

The provisions required in the lease are set out in Schedule 1 of the 1991 Act. These are:

  • the names of the parties

  • a description of the land or parcels of land to be let, with reference to a map or plan, to show the extent of the holding

  • the duration or term of the lease – if different parts of the holding are let for different lengths of time, this should be stated here

  • how much the rent is and when it is due

  • provisions concerning the landlord's responsibility to insure and repair the property against fire damage and the tenant's responsibility to insure the crops and stock against fire damage.

Irritancy clauses

The lease may also include irritancy clauses agreed between the landlord and tenant. [5] If the tenant breaks any of these clauses, the landlord may be within their rights to evict the tenant. [6]

However, this is a complicated area, and in recent cases landlords have been unable to remove tenants using irritancy clauses. Therefore, if a tenant is being evicted for breaking an irritancy clause, the matter should be referred to a solicitor who specialises in agricultural law.

Prohibited provisions

The lease cannot contain any of the following:

  • an irritancy clause requiring the tenant to reside on the land [7]

  • a provision requiring the tenant to pay for any work the landlord has to do to fulfil her/his repairing responsibilities. [8]

Tenant wants to end SDLT tenancy

The tenant can arrange to end the tenancy at any time, providing the landlord agrees to this. [9] The 2003 Act does not stipulate a notice period.

SDLT repairing duties

The tenant's lease should include the following information: [10]

a list of any fixed equipment on the land the tenant is renting 

  • an undertaking by the landlord

    - to ensure, at the start of the tenancy or as soon as is reasonably possible afterwards, that the buildings and fixed equipment on the holding are in a thorough state of repair and that they are sufficient for the tenant to farm the land properly, and

    - to replace or renew any buildings or fixed equipment damaged by natural decay or fair wear and tear

  • a provision stating that the tenant is only responsible for maintaining the fixed equipment to as good a state as it was at the start of the tenancy or after the landlord had provided, improved, replaced or repaired it (excluding natural decay and fair wear and tear). 

If either the landlord or the tenant wishes to amend the list of fixed equipment specified in the lease once the tenancy has started, they can do so by agreement in writing.

Action to enforce repairing duties

The tenant has the right to withhold rent if the landlord fails to fulfil their repairing obligations. [11]

Diversification

Short limited duration tenants do not have the right to use the land for non-agricultural purposes. [12]

Variation of rent

The rules governing rent levels in the 2003 Act do not apply to SLDTs. It is therefore up to the landlord and tenant to agree this between themselves. [13]

Subletting and assignation

Short limited duration tenants are not permitted to assign or sublet their tenancies. [14]

Succession

Short limited duration tenants have a right to bequeath their tenancies to any of the following people: [15]

  • their husband, wife or civil partner

  • a blood relative (for example, a child, brother, sister or parent)

  • their daughter-in-law or son-in-law.

On the death of the tenant, the legatee must give the landlord notice of the bequest within 21 days, or, if they are prevented from doing so by an unavoidable cause, as soon as is practicable afterwards. [16] The landlord has the right to object to the bequest, [17] in which case the legatee can appeal to the Land Court. [18]

The tenancy will pass to the next successor following the rules under section 16 of the Succession (Scotland) Act 1964 if:

  • the tenant dies without leaving a will, or

  • the legatee refuses the bequest, or

  • the landlord objects to the bequest and their objection is upheld by the Land Court. [19]

The landlord has the right to object to the transfer of the lease [20] and to acquire the new tenant's interest in the lease. [21]

Application to the Land Court and resolution of disputes

Any disputes over the tenancy can be referred to the Land Court (excluding matters concerning intestate succession). [22]

In some cases, the landlord and tenant can also agree to refer the matter to arbitration. [23]

Application forms and more information can be downloaded from the Scottish Land Court website.

Last updated: 11 February 2021

Footnotes

  • [1]

    s.4 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [2]

    s.5(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [3]

    s.18(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [4]

    s.13(3) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [5]

    s.18(1) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [6]

    s.19 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [7]

    s.18(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [8]

    s.16(6) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [9]

    s.6(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [10]

    s.16 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [11]

    s.12 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [12]

    s.39(1) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [13]

    s.9(1) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [14]

    s.6(1) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [15]

    s.21(1) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act, s.2 Succession (Scotland) Act 1964

  • [16]

    s.11(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991

  • [17]

    s.11(4) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991

  • [18]

    s.11(5) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 1991

  • [19]

    s.21(3) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [20]

    s.22(2) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [21]

    s.22(3) Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [22]

    s.77 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003

  • [23]

    s.78 Agricultural Holdings (Scotland) Act 2003