The Tenant Farming Commissioner (the TFC) has released a Code of Practice on the management of relationships between agricultural tenants and the holders of sporting rights.

The Code is the latest to be released by the TFC under section 27 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2016. It applies where land is subject to an agricultural tenancy and the landlord either exercises sporting rights or has leased them to a third party. The Code seeks to deal with the competing interests which are in play in that situation, in particular where there is a sporting tenant and an agricultural tenant who exercise rights over the same area of land but do not have a direct legal relationship.

Key Principles

The Code sets out key principles which include:

  • The agricultural tenant and the party exercising the sporting rights should respect the right of the other party to enjoy their rights without undue interference.
  • Good communication is key to a harmonious relationship.
  • Both parties should be prepared to make reasonable compromises.
  • Landlords should ensure that employees/sporting tenants are aware of the Code of Good Shooting Practice and the BASC Code of Practice on Deer Stalking.
  • Sporting leases should require tenants to comply with the Code of Good Shooting Practice and the BASC Code of Practice on Deer Stalking.

Practical Arrangements

The Code deals with the following practical arrangements with a view to minimising conflict –

  • Provision of contact details.
  • Agreeing access arrangements.
  • Notification of shooting dates.
  • Notification of other potentially affected parties (eg sub tenants of residential properties).

Whilst the Code seeks to deal with the main areas of potential conflict, it suggests that the parties may find it useful to agree a Memorandum of Understanding specific to their circumstances. This follows on from the Joint Industry Guidance issued by the Independent Adviser on Tenant Farming prior to the appointment of the TFC.

New Sporting Leases

The Code provides that any new sporting lease should contain a clause requiring the parties to comply with the Code.

Disagreements

Where a dispute has arisen between an agricultural tenant and a sporting tenant, the Code requires the parties to involve the landlord. The Code also requires the landlord to act reasonably and try to resolve the situation.

Whilst an agricultural tenant or landlord can make a direct complaint to the TFC where the Code has been breached, a sporting tenant cannot make a complaint to the TFC. Instead, the sporting tenant’s complaint must be raised with the TFC by the landlord who must satisfy himself that the complaint is reasonable and cannot be resolved through discussion and/or mediation.

It is interesting to note that the Code specifically provides that the parties should consider mediation before resorting to the TFC’s complaints process – the TFC should not be the first port of call where a disagreement has arisen.

Damage by Game and other Animals

The Code summarises the law which applies where an agricultural tenant has suffered damage from game and other animals and the rights which an agricultural tenant has in respect of ground game and deer.