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Decrofting - a How-To Guide

Last week we received news that our house was finally decrofted. It’s been a long wait, and I’ll go into why this is so so important for us.

What is a croft?

Crofting is a system of landholding, which is unique to Scotland, and is an integral part of life in the Highlands & Islands. A croft is a relatively small agricultural land holding, which is normally held in tenancy, and which may or may not have buildings or a house associated with it. Crofts range in size from less than 1/2 hectare to more than 50 hectares, but an average croft is nearer 5 hectares.

How many crofts are there?

There are around 20,000 crofts across the crofting counties, which are in the Highlands & Islands and in designated areas in Scotland. More than 750,000 hectares of land in Scotland is in crofting tenure, with approximately 33,000 people living in crofting households.

Crofts have their own laws

Crofting regulation is underpinned by Crofting legislation, mainly the'Crofters (Scotland) Act 1993' and the 'Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.'

What responsibilities do crofters have?

• A duty to be resident on or within 32 kilometres of their croft

• A duty not to neglect their croft

• A duty to cultivate and maintain their croft or to put it to another purposeful use

What happens if crofters don’t keep up with their responsibilities?

Where a Crofter fails to comply with their duties, the Crofting Commission can investigate the breach of duty and take enforcement action. This can result in the termination of a Croft tenancy, or in the owner occupier situation, the requirement to let the croft, if not resolved.

What is Decrofting?

If a registered croft is being sold with a house, the house and garden may have been de-crofted, which means that while the land around it remains under crofting tenure, the house (and often garden ground) is no longer subject to crofting legislation.

Because of Crofting legislation, you can’t get a mortgage on a croft house. In the event of you failing on your mortgage payments, the bank needs to be able to repossess your house, however, if you’ve also neglected your crofting duties, the Crofting Commission will also be wanting that croft house.

Unless, it’s decrofted.

Decroft = mortgage = money to renovate house = don’t have to live in a tiny wooden hut

So how do you go about that? (example is from our experience)

Stage 1

Cash buy the croft. In order to do this we had to beg, borrow and steal from family and friends (well, not the steal part).

Stage 2

Next we notified the crofting commission about a ‘change of ownership’.

Stage 3

The croft had never been registered with the Register of Scotland before, so we had to do that as well.

We completed on the croft in July 2021, the change of ownership and registering with the Register of Scotland took until November 2021.

Stage 4

Applying for decrofting.

Note: We sent all forms for stage 2, 3 and 4 together at the beginning of August 2021.

We were assigned a case number for decrofting in December 2021. The application was then declined because we have outbuildings on the ‘house site’. So we had to fill in a different form for decrofting.

Stage 5

The house is decrofted in April 2022.

Stage 6

Apply for mortgage April 2022.

Stage 7

Date TBC

Get mortgage, pay back family and friends, start renovating!

We’re applying for a renovation mortgage, which means we get back what we paid for the croft in a lump sum, then we also get back our costs at each stage of the renovation, based on the house’s new valuation.

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