The Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), in association with industry bodies NFUS and SLE, today issued advice about the implications of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation for on-farm meetings.
Coronavirus is making everyone reconsider activity and the farming community is no different. Tenant farmers across Scotland have until 12 June 2020 to consider if they have improvements to notify their landlord about, under the waygo amnesty. It is recognised that with the tenant’s amnesty discussions reaching a conclusion, and rent reviews being notified, there would – in normal times – often be a need for the parties involved to meet on the farm to see, and discuss, tenants’ improvements and other issues. Clearly this is likely to give rise to close social contact and may potentially involve people in particularly vulnerable categories due to age or underlying health issues. The industry bodies NFUS and SLE, in association with the TFC, are advising landlords, tenants and their agents to act in accordance with Government advice and avoid such face-to-face meetings. No person, especially anyone in a vulnerable category, should feel they are obliged to attend a meeting and maximum use should be made of other methods of communication to discuss pressing matters that cannot be postponed until the restrictions are lifted. If a telephone call will not suffice, there are a range of digital options such as video conferencing available, many of which are free and will operate on a smartphone, allowing you to give a ‘virtual tour’ of improvements if necessary.
We are advising landlords and tenants to postpone rent reviews due this spring unless these are likely to be straightforward and can be concluded without the need for a face-to-face meeting. We are aware that there are still outstanding farm inspections needed to finalise claims made under the tenants’ amnesty provisions and that the amnesty period will end on 12 June. All landlords, tenants and their agents are asked to take a reasonable approach to concluding amnesty agreements. If matters cannot be settled without an on-farm inspection, this should be postponed until the Government restrictions are lifted. It is recognised that this may mean that the meeting has to be held, and the schedule of improvements agreed, after the end of the amnesty period.
We are asking all landlords and tenants to be reasonable about allowing the process to remain alive even after the end of the amnesty period. They should agree in writing that they will enable finalisation of amnesty claims to be carried out, if necessary, after 12 June. Where such agreement cannot be reached, the TFC should be informed.
This process will only apply to claims where the amnesty process has begun before 12 June. It is not an opportunity to delay the start of the process. Tenants who delay the start of the process until after 12 June will lose their ability to take advantage of the amnesty provisions.