Quick guide for prospective crofters

3 April 2012

The dream of moving north to a remote croft and living ‘The Good Life’ can entice many to head for the Highlands. But buying or tenanting a croft can involve many pitfalls for the uninitiated. Inksters are experts in advising clients on crofting law, but here is a handy beginners’ guide to highlight some of the key issues to be aware of:
 Finding a croft:
-         There are almost 18000 crofts in Scotland but they become available infrequently. Prices can vary dramatically depending on the location, quality of buildings, the size of the croft and any associated rights to graze livestock on the grazings.
-          The seller may either be selling a crofting tenancy, or the owner occupancy of a croft. Crofts are advertised on the open market – check the Highland Solicitors Property Centre. It does not always follow that the price of a tenancy would be less than acquiring an owner-occupied croft; again, the location and size of the croft will determine the price asked.
Owner Occupancy or Tenanting?
-          In the case of a tenancy, it is not as straightforward as simply purchasing the tenancy and moving in. You must be a fit and proper person to take up the tenancy and be approved by the Crofting Commission. The neighbouring crofters are able to object to any proposed assignation of a tenancy – so your chances of living the good life may fall at the first hurdle.
-          If you are buying the owner-occupancy of a croft, you will still be expected to live on and work the croft. Until recently an owner-occupier was not called a crofter but a landlord of a vacant croft; however legislative reform has brought the status of owner-occupiers in line with tenants in this respect.
Rights and responsibilities:
Crofters must comply with statutory duties, of which there are several, including:
-          A nominal rent will be payable to the landlord of the croft; even after spending a significant amount of money on a tenancy.
-          The croft must be cultivated and kept in good condition. Cultivation can have quite a wide definition, but a neglected croft is a breach of a statutory condition and can result in a tenancy being terminated
-          Both owner-occupiers and tenants have a requirement to live on, or within 32km of their croft, and if this isn’t going to be the case, special permission must be sought from the Commission. Some exemptions can apply to this rule.
-          Crofting tenants have the right to purchase their croft at 15 times the annual rent, but this can be subject to the landlord seeking a rent review if this has not taken place for some time.
-          A croft may or may not come with an area, or share, of common grazings. All crofters who share in this should participate in the management of those grazings.
-          Those with a grazing share can apply to the Commission to ‘apportion’ part of those grazings for their exclusive use if it is necessary for the management of the croft. The neighbouring Crofters have a right to make representations to the Commission on this, who will have the discretion to approve or refuse an apportionment application.  
-          The term ‘croft’ refers to the land; it does not refer to a house situated on the croft.
-          There may or may not be a house on the croft; grants are available towards the cost of constructing a croft house (and indeed other agricultural buildings) but these come with conditions including a commitment to stay on the croft for a certain time period.
-          You can apply to have your croft house and a ‘reasonable’ area of garden ground ‘de-crofted’, which takes it out of crofting tenure. The decision is at discretion of the Commission.
The issue of making a will is extremely important if you are the tenant or owner occupier of a croft. Specialist advice on this should be sought – an intestate estate where a croft tenancy is involved can result in your heirs losing out on what you thought would be their rightful inheritance.

Inksters are experts on crofting law with Brian Inkster in Glasgow and Eilidh Ross in Inverness to advise you. Please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Bookmark and Share



blog comments powered by Disqus

Related Information


Internal Pages

External Links