So You Want to Buy a Croft...?
Located in some of Scotland’s most spectacular settings it is easy to see what draws many people towards buying a croft and the crofting way of life.
Crofting is a system of landholding which is unique to Scotland and is an integral part of life in the northern parts of the mainland and the islands. A croft is legally any small land holding, which is registered as a croft by the Crofting Commission. The croft may or may not have a house or farm buildings associated with it and there is no size limit.
Whether your desired croft is located within one of the traditional Crofting Counties of Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Ross & Cromarty, Sutherland, Orkney and Shetland, or in one of the more recently designated crofting areas of Moray, Arran, Bute, Greater and Little Cumbrae, crofts in Scotland often boast some of the most scenic (and challenging) landscapes. If your desired croft happens to fall within one of the above listed areas it could be a registered croft meaning it will be bound by crofting control and legislation. The Crofting Commission hold a register of these.
The crofting regulations apply only to crofts registered with the Crofting Commission. A “croft house” is not necessarily a croft. If a house is being sold without land, it is unlikely to be subject to crofting legislation which applies mainly to land. In this case, normal property laws apply and it can still be used as a second home or let it out as a holiday cottage. Similarly, some areas of land are named “croft” but are not registered crofts, and crofting regulations will not apply.
If a croft is being sold with a house, the house and garden will have often been de-crofted which means that while the land remains registered and under crofting tenure, the house is no longer subject to crofting legislation. This can be important if a mortgage is required as most lenders will only offer financial assistance if the property is not subject to crofting legislation.
When purchasing a registered croft (whether it is land only or includes a house or buildings), and becoming an owner-occupier you would require to comply with the duties imposed by the crofting legislation.
The duties are:
- To be ordinarily resident on or within 32km of the croft;
- Not to neglect or misuse the croft; and
- To cultivate and maintain the croft or put it to another purposeful use;
So what does this mean as a new crofter?
- You must live on either locally or on the croft itself. If you do not, the Crofting Commission may require you to re-let the land at a low rent and ultimately, that tenant may have a right to buy the croft land from you at the amount of fifteen times the annual rent payable under the lease.
- You must actively ‘Cultivate’ the croft. Cultivating can include keeping or breeding livestock, poultry or bees, growing fruit and vegetables, planting trees and the use of the land as woodlands. If you use the croft for other purposes or fail to manage the croft in a way that meets the standards of good agricultural and environmental conditions you may face serious consequences of enforcement action from the Crofting Commission.
Prospective croft owners should therefore consider carefully the obligations on crofters before buying a registered croft. Crofts can also be rented but we will pick up on that at a later date.
If you are interested in purchasing a croft or would like more information on this, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the Blackadders’ Rural Team for advice.
Fiona (Buffy) James, Solicitor
Rural Land & Business
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