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Review makes recommendations to improve relationships between land agents, tenants and landlords

In a report to Scottish Ministers about the conduct of agents of agricultural landlords and tenants, Scotland’s Tenant Farming Commissioner (TFC), Bob McIntosh, has made several recommendations aimed at reducing the number of occasions when landlords and tenants are dissatisfied with the conduct of an agent working for them or for the other party.

The report was a requirement arising from the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016 and reflected concern that inexperienced or insensitive agents may be adversely affecting the relationships between landlords and their tenants. The work involved independent surveys of landlords and tenants throughout Scotland with the aim of determining the overall level of satisfaction with the conduct of agents. Instances of dissatisfaction were followed up in more detail and the results of the surveys were shared with the key organisations representing landlords, tenants and agents to help form the recommendations.

Landlords and tenants were generally satisfied by the conduct of agents working on their behalf but less so with that of agents acting on behalf of the other party. Overall, 17 per cent of both landlords and tenants were dissatisfied with the conduct of an agent and dissatisfaction was generally linked to behaviour rather than to any lack of technical or legal knowledge on the part of the agent. The key reasons for dissatisfaction were:

  • Poor communication and inadequate recording of the outcome of meetings
  • Unnecessarily aggressive or condescending behaviour
  • Lack of transparency openness and honesty
  • Lack of awareness of the impact of a single transaction on the long term relationship between landlord and tenant.

The TFC has made nine recommendations for action with most of them relating to the need to improve interpersonal skills through more training, assessment and feedback mechanisms. He has also recommended that the professional bodies representing the majority of agents should increase awareness of, and ease of access to, their complaints procedures and should consider whether their published standards strike the right balance between the duty to a client and a duty to wider professional standards and societal values.

Bob McIntosh said

“It is clear that most agents perform their duties in a professional manner but the actions of a small minority can have a disproportionate effect on the reputation of the agent, their employers or their profession. It is important therefore that everyone involved from training establishments, employers, the professional bodies and the agents themselves, consider the recommendations carefully and take action to ensure that there is continuous improvement leading to a reduction in the instances of dissatisfaction’’

Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity said:

“I am grateful to the Tenant Farming Commissioner for completing this important piece of work and am heartened that he has found both that relationships between tenants and landlords are generally good and that problems with the conduct of agents are not widespread. However, I recognise, as he does, that some problems do exist and there is no room for complacency. I welcome the recommendations, and I look forward to seeing how they are taken forward by the sector.”

Read the full report here.