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New mediation scheme encourages all to give it a try

Bob McIntosh

In our latest blog, the Tenant Farming Commissioner, Bob McIntosh, discusses the benefits of his new mediation scheme in the hopes of making it a more accessible and affordable option for maintaining good landlord-tenant relationships.

All too often disputes between landlords and tenants resort to litigation rather than considering alternative ways of seeking resolution.  

To be fair, up until now there hasn’t been any easy way to access alternatives. To help remedy this, I set up a TFC pilot mediation scheme to investigate how mediation might help within the sector. The two-year pilot ended in July last year and we learnt a lot about the process and its potential benefits.  Participants told us that mediation achieved better outcomes and resolved issues more quickly than litigation would have. It also saved the parties involved thousands of pounds in potential legal costs.

Mediation uses an impartial third person to help parties find a solution to problems that are sometimes caused by behaviours and poor relationships that can go back generations. It works because both parties are heavily engaged in the process and take responsibility for trying to resolve their dispute. The solutions arrived at invariably involve flexibility and creative thinking on both sides. It is also flexible and voluntary, so either party can walk away if, at any point during the mediation process, they feel that an outcome cannot be reached. Contrary to popular belief, mediation is not a soft option – there’s always tough talking and uncompromising bargaining – but we have found that negotiations can become respectful and constructive with professional mediation.

Mediation builds upon the approach I take towards TFC enquiries, and in the hope that it will become a more popular means to resolve disputes, I’ve just launched a new scheme to make access to mediation easier and more affordable. 

The new scheme has a TFC gateway, to ensure parties are suitable and ready for mediation, and to enable access to our support and reassurance, if it’s needed. The scheme also provides access to an approved panel of experienced mediators and we will cover one third of the total cost of the mediation process, up to a maximum of £1,000.

I hope this will provide an incentive for anyone in the tenant farming sector who is involved in a dispute – whether landlord, agent or tenant – to give mediation a try. If you would like to see how mediation actually works in practice, have a look at the recording of our recent online mock mediation event which can be found on the Land Commission’s website

The amnesty continues to occupy minds. Well done to those who got amnesties agreed and signed before the deadline; it will stand you in good stead for future negotiations. For those who issued amnesty notices, the process continues and I have issued some guidance on the next steps. If a landlord doesn’t object to the amnesty notice, the tenant doesn’t need to do anything further other than make sure they keep a copy of the notice and proof of delivery safe. If a landlord objects to some but not every item and the tenant decides to accept the position, nothing further needs to be done, other than keeping a copy of the objection notice safely with the amnesty notice. If the tenant and landlord reach agreement within two months of the landlord’s objection, they still have to apply to the Land Court for approval of the list of agreed improvements. If agreement can’t be reached, the tenant can contest the position by applying to the Land Court. Further details on all options are available on the Land Commission website.

New relinquishment and assignation legislation is due to come into force at the end of February. It will enable a tenant with a secure tenancy to relinquish the tenancy in return for a payment by the landlord based on the value of the tenancy or, if the landlord does not wish to buy the tenancy, to assign it for value to a new entrant or progressing farmer. The aim of these provisions is to help existing tenants wishing to retire or quit the tenancy to do so and to help provide new opportunities for young people to enter the profession. Look out for a new TFC guide to the main features of the legislation which will be published in the coming weeks. 

Guidance on the amnesty next steps, and information on how to apply to the Mediation Scheme is on the Scottish Land Commission website. As ever, please do get in touch if you would like to discuss any issue.

Tractor tyre tracks crossing farmland in the Black Isle