Agricultural occupiers

Agricultural occupiers whose accommodation is provided for them as part of their terms of employment have additional rights that protect them from eviction. This page defines agricultural occupiers and explains what these rights are.

This content applies to Scotland

Case law on agricultural occupier's rights

There is some uncertainty in the courts over whether it is the the sheriff court or the tribunal who have jurisdiction in these matters. The wording of the updated Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 refers only to the powers of the tribunal rather than the sheriff. [1]

Definition of agricultural occupier

An agricultural worker is anyone working as an employee or apprentice in the agricultural sector. This includes:

  • dairy farming

  • raising livestock

  • growing crops

  • market gardening. [2]

An agricultural occupier is an agricultural worker whose accommodation is provided by their employer as part of their terms of employment. [3]

Additional rights for agricultural occupiers

Agricultural occupiers have the same protection against eviction as all service occupiers. This means that, on termination of the worker's employment, their employer/landlord must apply for an eviction order from the sheriff court in order to recover possession of the accommodation, if the worker does not leave. [4]

However, section 24 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1984 gives agricultural occupiers additional rights when their employment and tenancy are brought to an end. If the agricultural occupier has died, these rights are also extended to their widower/widow, or, if s/he does not have a surviving spouse, to any other family member who was living with them when s/he died. [5]

There is a question over this due to the wording of updated legislation referring only to the powers of the tribunal. It has been noted that when the 1984 Act was updated to allow the transfer of jurisdiction for many proceedings in private rented property, from sheriff court to the tribunal, there may have been an error in the drafting. [6] See also the note below on suspending an eviction.

It is important to remember that the accommodation must have been provided as part of the worker's terms of employment. If an agricultural worker rents their home from their employer under a separate agreement and does not have to live there to carry out the functions of their job, or is not given accommodation in place of part of their wages, s/he will not be covered by section 24. This is a contentious area of law, so the worker should be advised to consult a solicitor who specialises in agricultural or employment law.

Suspending an eviction

If an order for possession is granted, the court can choose to suspend the order on such terms and conditions as it sees reasonable.

Until the legislation is resolved, advisers should note that in one case the sheriff, with the agreement of both parties, used his common law powers to 'supercede the extract' of the eviction decree. This gave the occupier time to find alternative accommodation. [7]

For example, the sheriff may set conditions relating to the payment of rent arrears, or compensation for loss of possession. [8] In making this decision, the sheriff should consider whether:

  • there is any other suitable accommodation available for the worker

  • the running of the agricultural land or holding would be affected because accommodation is not available for a new worker

  • it would cause greater hardship to suspend the eviction than to end the tenancy now.

If the possession order is made within six months of the tenancy ending, the court can suspend the eviction until those six months have expired, unless the employer/landlord can convince the court that: [9]

  • there is any other suitable accommodation available for the worker

  • the running of the agricultural land or holding would be affected because accommodation is not available for a new worker

  • it would cause greater hardship to suspend the eviction than to end the tenancy now

  • the worker has damaged the property in any way or behaved in an antisocial manner (in this case the court is unlikely to suspend the order).

Again, the court can attach conditions to the suspension.

The court can change the conditions attached on application, and may also vary or end the period of suspension. [10]

Compensation for unfair termination

Again this section is in question due to possible error in drafting of the legislation. [11]

If the court decides not to suspend the eviction when a possession order is made within six months of the tenancy ending, and the worker can prove that their employer/landlord has misrepresented the situation concerning the running of the agricultural land, the court can order the owner to pay the worker compensation. [12]

Last updated: 6 January 2020

Footnotes

  • [1]

    see note by Sheriff Jamieson concerning Dickie v Frame [2019] SC DUM 68

  • [2]

    s.17 Agricultural Wages (Scotland) Act 1949

  • [3]

    s.24(1) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [4]

    s.23(1) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [5]

    s.24(2) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [6]

    see note by Sheriff Jamieson concerning Dickie v Frame [2019] SC DUM 68

  • [7]

    see note by Sheriff Jamieson concerning Dickie v Frame [2019] SC DUM 68

  • [8]

    s.24(3) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [9]

    s.24(4) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [10]

    s.24(5) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984

  • [11]

    See note by Sheriff Jamieson concerning Dickie v Frame [2019] SC DUM 68

  • [12]

    s.24(8) Rent (Scotland) Act 1984