A Borders farmer who took his rent review fight to the Scottish Land Court has had his payments fixed at a higher level than that originally requested by his landowner.
The result of John Elliot’s six-year legal battle with Roxburghe Estates over the rent for Roxburgh Mains farm, Kelso, has left him with costs of more than £120,000. His annual rent will rise to £48,982 – a hike of 78% since the last increase in 1996.
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The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) said the outcome was a devastating blow to Scotland’s tenanted sector and the death knell of the Land Court.
The STFA described Mr Elliot as a respected livestock producer and experienced farm arbiter with a thorough knowledge of conducting rent reviews.
“If he can fall foul of the system then there is little hope for the rest of Scotland’s tenants,” said STFA chairman Christopher Nicholson. “This case clearly demonstrates the need for radical change to the legislation governing rent reviews.”
Roxburghe Estates factor Roddy Jackson said that previous offers to settle out of court had been at a level that was well below the rent now set. The final figure is based on the evidence of the open market rent of one comparable farm and the agreed rents negotiated with the tenants of five other comparable farms.
He added: “A concern which we have in cases of this type is whether the decision not to settle was influenced by the STFA insurance scheme for legal costs. This scheme provided cover only in the event that a case ran until conclusion. Such a condition positively discourages out of court settlements and makes little sense.”
However, the STFA responded angrily to the suggestion their insurance had influenced any decisions.
“Contrary to a misleading statement from Roxburghe Estates, John Elliot was not covered by any insurance scheme which could have provided assistance for legal fees, and therefore insurance considerations had no part to play in the decision not to settle out of court,” said Mr Nicholson.