Why is this important?
This information applies to Scotland only
Table of contents
A croft is a small agricultural unit which is usually a tenancy, but is sometimes owner-occupied, and which is located in one of the crofting counties or other specially designated areas. It usually consists of a small area of land plus grazing rights in an area of common grazings shared with a number of other crofts. A croft is not the house in which the crofter lives, it is the land which s/he occupies.
The crofting counties are the former counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland, Caithness, Orkney and Shetland. In 2010, several new crafting areas have been created. These are: Arran, Bute, Greater and Little Cumbrae, Moray and parts of Highland that are not already covered within the traditional crafting counties. If you are in doubt as to whether a particular piece of land falls within this area, you should check with the Crofting Commission for the address.
The Crofting Register
An online Crofting Register has been launched by the Registers of Scotland and will be completed over time. It is map-based and free to search and will display the exact boundaries of each croft.
From November 2013, crofts and common grazings are required to register when there is some other change to the croft which requires notification to the Crofting Commission, for example assigning or re-letting the tenancy to someone else. Voluntary registration is also possible.
There is a fee to register a croft. More information about when registration is required, application forms and guidance is available on the Crofting Register website at www.crofts.ros.gov.uk.
A crofter is normally the tenant of a croft and pays rent to the landlord of the croft. If you own your own croft, you must live on the croft or you have to find a tenant to occupy the croft.
The main differences between crofts and other small agricultural tenancies are that:-
- crofters have security of tenure and the right to pass on the tenancy to a member of their family, or to assign (pass on) the tenancy to a non-family member
- crofters may have fair rents fixed by the Land Court, failing agreement with their landlords
- there are special grants available to crofters to help them improve the productivity of the land and to provide housing
- there are special rules which govern the crofters' right to use common grazings.
You can become a crofter in a number of different ways:-
- being assigned a tenancy by an existing crofter and becoming a tenant; or
- being sublet the croft by the existing registered tenant and becoming a subtenant, which can only be for a limited period of time; or
- buying a croft that is presently owner-occupied and becoming an owner-occupier; or
- getting a tenancy of a vacant croft and becoming a tenant; or
- inheriting a croft. If you are the spouse, civil partner or cohabitee of a crofter who dies you can inherit the tenancy of the whole croft. You should be aware that if you accept the bequest you will assume responsibility for any debts of the deceased as the former tenant of the croft
- being given the short lease of a croft by its owner for up to 10 years.
There is a great demand for croft tenancies and very few come onto the market. Those that do are in great demand. Available tenancies are advertised in the property sections of local newspapers such as the Oban Times, Stornoway Gazette, West Highland Free Press, Shetland Times, Press and Journal. Solicitors' offices and estate agents handle such sales and can be approached directly to find out what might be available. You could also make a direct approach to estates within the crofting counties, as they might have a vacant tenancy.
The Scottish Crofting Federation keeps a register of people who are interested in obtaining a croft. The register is then matched with any crofts that become available. More information is available on the Scottish Crofting Federation website.
The consent of the Crofting Commission is required in any change of tenancy of a croft to a person who is not an immediate family member of the current tenant. Their consent is also required for reletting directly from an estate of a vacant croft.
If you are thinking of buying a croft you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
Since 1976 tenants have been able to buy their crofts. Technically an owner is not a crofter but the landlord of a croft. However, so long as you live on the croft as the owner, the Commission does not expect the croft to be re-let to a new tenant.
If you want to buy your house site you will need to employ a solicitor. As well as being responsible for your own legal expenses, you may be expected to pay part or all of the landlord's expenses. For the address of the Crofting Law Group, which holds names of solicitors who specialise in crofting matters, see under heading Are there any organisations which can help crofters.
If you wish to buy your croft you should consult an experienced adviser, for example, at a Citizens Advice Bureau - where to get advice.
You could be eligible for a wide variety of grants and loans. Some of these are grants which are generally available to all farmers, while others are specifically aimed at crofters. The rules about eligibility are complicated and depend on whether you own the croft or are a tenant or sub-tenant.
If you would like more information about what help may be available your local Citizens Advice Bureau will have more information - where to get advice.
The Crofting Commission
The Crofting Commission is a government department which administers crofting. Its remit is to develop and regulate crofting, and to promote the interests of crofters.
Great Glen House
The Scottish Crofting Federation
The Scottish Crofting Federation is a representative body for crofters which provides information about crofting and lobbies government on issues which affect crofters. The Federation also runs a legal helpline for its members. Initial advice (around 15 minutes) is free.
Scottish Crofting Federation,
Kyle Industrial Estate,
The Crofting Law Group
The Crofting Law Group holds details of solicitors who have experience in dealing with crofting issues.
Mr Brian Inkster
Crofting Law Group
c/o Inksters Solicitors
50 Wellington Street
Tel: 0141 229 0880