Houses let via tenanted farms 'require bespoke rural solutions'

Press Release

Regulating houses let as part of agricultural holdings through private rented sector legislation instead could lead to intractable problems for farming businesses, Scottish Land & Estates said today.

The rural business organisation held its annual conference in Edinburgh today which a focus on rural Scotland’s housing stock.

The Scottish Government has signalled its intention to bring homes within agricultural tenancies into greater line with the regulation and operation of the social and private rented housing sectors.

SLE said it fully supported the need for the quality of homes to be improved but that bespoke rural solutions were required rather than a one-size fits all approach more suited to urban settings. The organisation said regulation should be incorporated into an Agricultural Holdings Bill rather than an ill-advised attempt to bring the sector into a future Housing Bill.

Sarah-Jane Laing, chief executive of SLE, said: “We support the broad effort to improve the standard of housing stock on tenanted farms where required, ensuring homes are safe and warm for all.

“One of the current considerations by government is to look at housing let through agricultural holdings and how that could be brought closer into line with private rented sector legislation.

“We firmly believe that any changes to legislation should only occur through bespoke legislation, taking account of the complexity of agricultural holdings legislation rather than trying to retrospectively apply housing legislation. That would be done through an Agricultural Holdings Bill but taking cognisance of wider housing policy principles. We would reach the same outcome but through a route that was better suited to tenant farming.

“Issues such as repairing obligations, rent, tenants’ improvements and farmhouses forming part of the fixed equipment must all be considered. To override the current arrangements without careful consideration could present real difficulties for all within the industry and exacerbate the problems that exist.”

SLE added that it was vital that action was taken immediately to tackle the wider rural housing problems in Scotland.

Ms Laing added: “Since the inception of the Scottish Parliament, there has been a wide political consensus to improve the sustainability of our rural communities but the stark reality is that we should be much further forward than we are now.

“Provision of rural housing is essential to the success of that strategy. We all share the goal of trying to increase the amount of rural housing but all too often that ambition is thwarted by delays in planning processes, lack of funding for private affordable homes, prohibitive infrastructure and utility costs and an ever-growing burden of private rented sector legislation.

“Members of Scottish Land & Estates provide more than 10,000 homes for rent in rural areas and many businesses are actively involved in building homes. They are dedicated to meeting a real social need but they are frustrated. Delivery of new homes is more complicated than it need be, and we continue to lose affordable rented housing due to ever increasing burden on landlords. The rate of new build affordable rented houses just cannot match the homes we are losing from the sector week on week.

“The time for action is now and we need to see the Scottish Government deliver on its commitment to provide rural solutions to rural housing need.”