The Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, is encouraging landlords and tenants to take part in a survey of views and experiences of the conduct of agents engaged to act on their behalf in matters relating to agricultural holdings.
The survey is part of the review of agents which the Tenant Farming Commissioner is tasked to complete under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. The Scottish Land Commission has commissioned Research Resource, a social and economic research agency based in Glasgow, to carry out the survey.
Why is the Land Commission looking into the views of landlords and tenants regarding the operation of agents?
The Tenant Farming Commissioner is tasked under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016(Section 36) to review the operation of professionals engaged by landlords and tenants in relation to business conducted on agricultural holdings. The TFC must prepare and submit a report, including recommendations to improve the operation of agents, to Scottish Ministers before the 31st March 2018.
As a first step in gathering information for the TFC’s review, the Scottish Land Commission has commissioned research to determine the views and experiences of tenant farmers and landlords with regard to the operation of agents. –This is an important first step in gathering information on the extent and nature of usage of agents by both tenants and landlords, and to obtain a general impression of the level of satisfaction or concern. Further work will be required to inform the review.
What is an agent?
Agents are any third party intermediaries such as surveyors, solicitors, factors and land agents engaged by landlords and tenants in relation to business conducted on agricultural holdings.
How is the research being conducted?
Following a competitive tendering process, a research contract has been awarded to Research Resource – a social and economic research agency based in Glasgow. To capture the views and experiences effectively, Research Resource will be carrying out telephone surveys of a sample of both agricultural tenants and landlords. The researchers are commissioned with delivering robust factual survey results with information being collected and collated in an independent, open and fair manner.
When do the surveys start?
The surveys will take place throughout November 2017.
Why are telephone surveys being used?
The telephone surveys ensure that a good representative sample of respondents can be contacted. They also allow researchers to talk to respondents, ensuring that the purpose of the research and questions can be explained where necessary. Most importantly qualitative questions to be asked which can be fully probed and recorded enabling opinions to be backed up with examples.
I’m a tenant farmer, can I take part?
The researchers are aiming to collect 900 completed surveys from tenant farmers. A representative sample of tenant farmers from the Scottish Government’s agricultural census database will be selected to take part – making sure that there is fair representation according to farm size, tenancy type and location. Research Resource will contact you by telephone if you have been selected to take part in the survey.
I’m a landlord, can I take part?
The researchers are aiming to collect 400 completed surveys from landlords. There is no database of landlords with agricultural tenants so a database for the study is being collated from:
- landlords that have been listed by tenants on the public pre-emptive right to buy register;
- an email from Scottish Land & Estates inviting their members to register an interest in taking part, via a weblink to Research Resource; and
- a press release from the Land Commission inviting landlords to register an interest in taking part.
Research Resource will profile all the landlords collated by these means and take a representative sample based on estate size, location and tenancy types.
If you are a landlord and would like to take part in the survey, there is still time to register your interest here: www.researchresource.co.uk/surveyofagents.html
Please note, that those who register an interest in taking part may not necessarily be in the sample to be surveyed.
If I’m invited to take part, what will I be asked?
Landlords and tenants will be asked a series of questions on their interactions and experiences of agents. The surveys include:
- general profile questions about the farm/estate and tenancy type(s), followed by questions about general relationships between tenant and landlord.
- a series of questions about agents employed by the respondent. Including questions on professional conduct and complaints. There is scope here for respondents to provide detailed information.
- questions that mirror section (2) but in regard to agents operating for the tenant, where a landlord is responding, and the landlord, where the tenant is responding.
- a series of questions about improving landlord/tenant/agent relations.
I’m a landlord with a resident factor/agent, can I take part?
Yes. Responses from landlords with resident factors are an important part of this research. The Land Commission encourages landlords with resident factors to take part, even if they feel there is a part of the survey (for example section iii) that they cannot complete. There may be other respondents who feel unable to complete other parts of the survey, which is perfectly acceptable.
If I’m invited to take part, how long will the survey take?
Telephone interviews will take approximately 15 minutes. Calls will be made at various times of the day. If it is inconvenient to take part when you are first contracted, you can arrange a suitable time for the researcher to call back.
I’m an agent working on behalf of a tenant and/or landlord, can I take part?
No, not at this stage. These surveys are for tenant farmers and landlords to express their views and experiences. In the new year, agents representatives will have the opportunity to discuss the results and make submissions to inform the review. The Scottish Land Commission is working with RICS, ALA and SAAVA to determine how best to involve their members.
How do you know that the surveys will collect the information you require?
The surveys have been piloted with a number of tenant farmers and landlords, and are working well in capturing information from respondents with a range of experiences in their interactions with agents. Understandably the interviews are varying in length, with some sections being more relevant than others according to individual experiences. A good range of information is being collected as there are sufficient open questions to explore and explain issues in depth. The final section of the survey about improving landlord/agent/tenant relationships is capturing very good information – particularly from landlords.
If I take part will my responses be confidential?
Yes. All responses will be completely confidential and Research Resource will only report back results of the survey from tenant farmers and landlords overall; individual responses will not be traceable. Respondents will be asked at the end of the survey if they would be willing to take part in further research on the conduct of agents.
Have stakeholders been involved?
The survey methodology was discussed with stakeholders at the Tenant Farming Advisory Forum in September. These stakeholders (RICS, SAAVA, STFA, SLE, NFUS, ALA, Scottish Government) were sent draft landlord and tenant questionnaires for comment at the beginning of October 2017. These were then revised in light of comments, and stakeholders were sent the revised questionnaires for information. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to discuss and comment on the survey findings in the new year.
Can I promote the survey?
Yes. Please encourage landlords and tenants to take part if they are contacted. Specifically you can encourage landlords to register their interest in taking part at www.researchresource.co.uk/surveyofagents.html
Could the survey of landlords be seen as selective?
There has been some discussion about the landlord survey being self-selecting. Due to the lack of a publicly available landlord database we are compiling a database as described above, from which to select a sample. The more landlords who register their interest the more representative the database will be.
How will you qualify opinions that are expressed?
We are specifically collating information on views and experiences of landlords and tenants on the conduct of agents. These views and experiences will be quantified and qualified, and at this stage the Land Commission will not be investigating responses on an case by case basis. Respondents will be asked at the end of the survey if they would be willing to take part in further research on the conduct of agents.
Will the survey be fair?
Views on the conduct of an agent could well be coloured by the outcome of a particular transaction or negotiation. Our contractors recognise the implications of this and have experience in surveying complaints procedures with similar implications. They will be focussing on agent conduct, and guiding respondents to separate the outcome from procedures.
Will there be further work on the review of agents?
If the findings suggest that there are specific issues that require further investigation, then the Land Commission will look further into these.
The survey is the first step in the process and the outcome from the survey may indicate that further work needs to be carried out by the TFC in the review of agents.
Where can I get further information?
For further information contact Sarah Allen at the Scottish Land Commission on 0300 244 2536 or email sarah.Allen@landcommission.gov.scot.