Voluntary Code of Good Practice between hutters and landlords

Since the lack of a formal agreement has led to many disputes between hutters and landlords in the past, we strongly recommend that new hutters and landlords have a formal contract to ensure the rights and responsibilities of both parties are clear.

To assist the process of creating a fair tenancy agreement, a hutting Voluntary Code of Good Practice has been developed. We hope it will encourage the adoption of good practices by hutters and hutting land owners. The Code sets out recommended rights and responsibilities for hutters and hutting land owners, and it is recommended that the Code is adopted by all hutters and hutting land owners in order to set and maintain high standards for hutting in Scotland. It may be that the principles contained within this Code could form the basis for a hut tenancy agreement to protect the rights of both parties, ensuring fairness and preventing misunderstandings between hutters and landlords.

Definition of hut

 A hut is described in the 2014 Scottish Planning Policy as:

“A simple building used intermittently as recreational accommodation (ie. not a principal residence); having an internal floor area of no more than 30m2; constructed from low impact materials; generally not connected to mains water, electricity or sewerage; and built in such a way that it is removable with little or no trace at the end of its life. Huts may be built singly or in groups.”[1]

Use of hut

To comply with the 2014 Scottish Planning Policy, huts must only be used intermittently as recreational accommodation. Huts must not be used as a principal residence.

Planning matters

Planning applications : The land owner and hutter should agree who will take responsibility for, and fund, a planning application for a hut on the land.

Building regulations : Following the amendment to the Building (Scotland) Regulations 2004, the builder or owner of the hut will take responsibility for, and fund, the process of complying with building regulations for their hut. The hutter will be responsible for investigating whether any local authority consents are required when intending to carry out any further modifications to a hut after construction is complete.

Hutters’ rights and responsibilities

Ownership of the hut : The lease should state whether it is the landowner or the hutter who owns the hut, however ownership of a hut can be complex in legal terms. Ultimately, ownership of the hut is determined by the law of accession. It is advisable to ensure that a clear, formal agreement on ownership of the hut is contained within the lease, however all hutters and landlords should consider seeking their own independent advice on this matter. Hutters should also ensure that they do not breach the terms of their lease so that their lease, and their rights agreed and set out in the lease, remain intact for the duration of the lease period. Hutters should be aware that once the lease ends their legal rights to the hut are immediately compromised, so if they want to be able to remove their hut at the end of the lease term there should be provision for this in their lease.

Right to receive a lease and map outlining hut and land boundaries : The hutter has a right to sign a lease which specifies the hut site and the terms and conditions of the lease. At the time of signing the lease the hutter should receive a simple map outlining the boundary or boundaries of the hut site and any garden or other ground or allotment area the hutter is leasing. The hutter will construct the hut in accordance with the relevant local authority’s planning and building rules and any other appropriate guidance[3].

Right to alter or extend hut : A hutter has the right to extend, alter or modify the structure of their hut in accordance with local authority regulations, but must first seek the permission of the land owner.   Any alterations to the hut must fully comply with the local authority’s planning and building regulations and the Scottish Government’s definition of a hut as set out in the 2014 Scottish Planning Policy. It will be the hutter’s responsibility to investigate whether any consents must be obtained from the local authority prior to carrying out any alterations to the hut.

The hutter may make any internal alterations to the hut without obtaining the land owner’s permission, however the hutter must ensure the hut continues to comply with the local authority’s planning and building regulations and the Scottish Government’s 2014 Scottish Planning Policy, seeking expert advice if necessary.

Right to peaceful enjoyment of the hut : The hutter will have the right to the peaceful enjoyment of their hut without undue interference by the land owner. Terms under which the land owner can approach the hut/hutter are detailed within this Code.

Responsibility to pay full rent, on time : The hutter must pay the level of rent as stipulated (i) in the lease, or, (ii) as stipulated in the rent review notification. The rent must be paid in full and on the date and frequency as specified in the lease or rent review notification.

Responsibilities and standards of behaviour : The lease will state what the expected standards of behaviour are from hutters and their visitors. Hutters must comply with lease conditions regarding expected standards of behaviour, acceptable noise levels, control of dogs, any permitted areas for camp-fires and barbeques, waste management, storage or disposal, litter, control of vermin, access to and gathering of wood fuel or other onsite materials, car parking arrangements and any other points as listed in the lease conditions.

The lease should also state what responsibilities the hutter has (if any) for any surrounding woodland management, duties or responsibilities regarding designated sites or other environmental schemes, and duties and responsibilities surrounding biosecurity both on the land owner’s land and on land owned by adjoining land owners.

The hutter should also familiarise themselves with Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, and comply with all wildlife crime regulations.

Maintenance standard of hut and surrounding area : The lease should state the required standard of maintenance of the hut and the surrounding area which the hutter has responsibility for. The maintenance of the hut and surrounding area may include, for example, the hut condition, hut paint colour, frequency of painting, condition of any boundary fencing or boundary hedge, and any other areas within the map boundary as specified in the lease.

End of lease arrangements for hut : The lease will specify end of lease arrangements for the hut. The lease should state whether or not the lease can be renewed upon expiry, and if so, for what duration. The lease should also state whether or not the hutter will be required, at their own cost, to remove the hut and return the land to its original condition at the end of the lease. The lease should also state that, if the hut is not to be removed from the site by the hutter upon expiry of the lease and the hutter or land owner do not intend to renew the lease upon expiry, what compensation (if any) will be payable to the hutter for the transfer of ownership of the hut to the landowner. The lease will specify how compensation payable by the land owner to the hutter is to be calculated, and when that compensation is payable.

The right of re-sale of the hut : Re-sale rights for the hut should be specified in the lease and will be dependent upon ownership of the hut. The lease should specify what agreement has been made between the landowner and the hutter in relation to the sale of either the lease, or the hut itself, and the terms of such a sale.

The resale price should not exceed the cost incurred in building the hut.   The lease should also state whether or not the lease itself can be re-assigned and if so, under what conditions.

If reassignment of a lease is permitted, the incoming hutter will either be required to sign the lease to accept the terms and conditions of the existing lease until its expiry, or to sign a new lease extending the lease term if the incoming hutter and land owner agree. Failure by the incoming hutter to sign a lease will result in the outgoing hutter remaining liable for full rent payments and the maintenance of the hut until the incoming hutter signs a lease.

Right to sub-let : The lease should specify whether or not the hutter has the right to sub-let their hut. In the event of sub-letting if the lease permits this, the hutter will remain liable during the sub-let for paying the rent in full and on time to the land owner in accordance with their lease conditions. The lessee hutter must also ensure that lease conditions are strictly adhered to by the sub-letting hutter.

The land owner will have the right to terminate the lease if the lessee hutter fails to ensure their sub-letting hutter strictly adheres to the terms and conditions of the lease.

The lessee hutter may charge the sub-letting hutter rent of less than or equal to the rent figure detailed in the lease or rent review notification, but is not permitted to charge the sub-letting lessee rent greater than the rent figure detailed in the lease or rent review notification. The lessee hutter is not permitted to offer the hut for sub-letting on a short-term or holiday basis or any other form of business letting.

Land owners’ rights and responsibilities

Right to receive rental payments : The land owner has the right to receive rental payments at the rate and frequency stipulated in the lease or rent review notification.

Responsibility to set fair rent, and fair rent review process : The land owner has a responsibility to set a fair level of annual rent for the lease of the hut site, having referred to available guidance[4]. The land owner must also implement a fair rent review process. It is recommended that rents are reviewed on an annual basis, with annual rent changes linked to the rate of inflation. In the event of a dispute arising over rent levels, the lease should signpost the hutter and land owner to an independent mediation service. The level of rent, frequency of rent review and method by which rent reviews are to be calculated will be stated in the lease.

Responsibility to provide and maintain services : It is for the landowner to decide what services or infrastructure they will provide on the hutting site, depending upon individual site circumstances. Those services or infrastructure which the landowner will provide should be specified in the lease. These may, or may not, include services such as : the provision of drinking water, waste disposal, recycling, access roads or tracks, and any other services as listed in the lease. The land owner has responsibility to provide, and maintain, those services or infrastructure that have been agreed in the terms of the lease.

If any services are not to be provided by the landowner, the lease should state what alternative arrangements hutters should make in relation to those services.

The lease should also state whether a compost toilet is to be used and any associated arrangements for the disposal of such waste. The lease should also include who is responsible for maintenance of common areas, if any, such as areas around any waste collection points or other common areas such as fire pit or barbeque areas.

Right of reasonable access to hut sites : The land owner has a right to reasonable access to hut sites in order to discuss matters with hutters, however the land owner must also respect the hutter’s right to peaceful enjoyment of their hut site, subject to normal personal or business operations of the land owner on the surrounding land.


Additional issues recommended for inclusion in a lease

In addition to the points listed above which should be included in a lease, it is recommended that the following points are also included in a lease :

Duration of lease : It is recommended that the minimum lease term is 10 years, however the length of lease is to be agreed between the hutter and land owner and included in the lease. The hutter and land owner may agree to insert a break clause into the lease which will allow the lease to be prematurely terminated by the hutter at a pre-determined date. In such an instance no compensation will be payable by the hutter if the hutter decides to terminate the lease at the agreed break point. A suitable break point may, for example, be 3 years into a 10 year lease at which point the hutter can terminate the lease without penalty.   

Dispute resolution process : If there is no onsite hutters’ representative body to intervene in the event of a dispute arising between the hutter and land owner, the lease should signpost the hutter and land owner to an independent mediation service in order to resolve disputes which may arise relating to issues such as adherence to lease conditions, periodic rent reviews, or standard of behaviour. The hutter and land owner are to make their own arrangements for the funding of any mediation undertaken. Should there be an onsite hutters’ representative body at the time of the signing of the lease, the lease should recognise that body and state the role that body will take in the event of a dispute arising between a hutter and the land owner.

Notice period – hutter : The lease should state the notice period a hutter is required to give for the termination of the lease which occurs before the expiry of the lease, and before or after any break point in the lease, if a break point is agreed by the hutter and land owner and included in the lease. The lease should also state what compensation, if any, should be paid from the hutter to the land owner for the premature termination of the lease.

 Notice period – land owner : The lease should state the notice period a land owner is required to give for the termination of the lease which occurs before the expiry of the lease. The lease should also state what compensation, if any, should be paid from the land owner to the hutter for the premature termination of the lease, where the termination of the lease is not due to breach of lease conditions.

[1] Scottish Planning Policy 2014, Glossary : http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0045/00453827.pdf

[2] http://www.thousandhuts.org/?p=683

[3] Good Practice Guide to Hut Construction, Reforesting Scotland, 2017 (hyperlink will be provided once published)

New Hutting Developments: Guidance on planning, developing and managing huts, Thousand Huts, 2016 (http://www.thousandhuts.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/160215-Huts-Guidance-FINAL-screen-res.pdf)

 

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