Grab it while you still can and beat amnesty deadline
What is it about doing things we know will be good for us in the long run?
Why, for instance is it so difficult to eat the prescribed “five a day” of fruit and veg, to choose salad over chips, to do the daily 10,000 steps, or to tidy the tools away after we’ve used them?
Maybe it’s human nature to put off things we know cost a bit of effort. But in the farming world the biggest excuse – used for everything from not paying outstanding bills to failing to put the coffee cup in the dishwasher – is the lack of time.
At harvest time and other busy spells, there is so much focus on getting the job done that everything else is pretty much put on hold. Of course, once the busy spell is finished you find yourself spending so much time catching up that the next hectic period catches you unawares.
Given last week’s efforts to push tenants into getting on with the job of drawing up a list of their – and quite possibly their father’s and grandfather’s – improvements for the amnesty which allows the industry to notify their landlord of work carried out in the past but for which the required notification wasn’t given, I’m guessing I’m not alone in procrastinating on this.
Approaching halfway through the three year amnesty, it would appear that only a handful of Scotland’s 5,000 tenants have notified landlords of works they have carried out – and not many more have actually started to draw up a list of their improvements.
The amnesty, introduced
as part of the 2016 Land Reform Bill, was launched in June 2017 and offers a grab-it-whileyou-can opportunity to put dibs on any work or investment carried out so that a tenant can claim some compensation for the expense and effort, when or if they ever decide to give up tenancy.
So while there might be little to gain in the short term, the exercise could be crucial for claims decades down the line.
While there is no need to put actual values on these improvements at the moment, tenants have been advised to make sure they go “wide and deep” well beyond simple and obvious items like new buildings or fences.
It could easily take an entire article to list what might qualify, with everything from new kitchen ceilings to land reclamation, but given the amnesty is a one-off, it will pay to make sure that everything is itemised.
Therein lies part of the problem – for if you and your family have been slaving away on the same acres for several generations, then not only remembering but also tracking down verifiable evidence of what has been done is going to be tricky and time-consuming.
Looking at some of the examples –given on the Scottish Land Commission’s
website – also makes it look like a bit of a complicated procedure as well, especially when it comes to projects which have had input from both tenant and landlord and even more so when grants were involved, as was the case with many of the buildings and fences put up in the good old days of the 60s, 70s and 80s.
There’s also the fact that many tenant simply don’t want to rub their landlords up the wrong way – but since it is up to the tenant to initiate the exercise, don’t sit about waiting on a prod from the landowner.
Many tenants on secure tenancies might consider that their tenancies will never come to an end – and believe the amnesty simply isn’t worth bothering about. But there is another good reason to get busy.
The soon-to-be-introduced updated system for rent negotiations is based on the productive capacityofafarm–sothereis good reason to know who contributed what. And with tenants’ improvements disregarded from the rental calculation, a firm record of who has supplied what will be crucial.
After all, no one wants to be charged rent on their own improvements…