Housing burdens

Information about rural housing burdens which can apply to properties or house plots in rural Scotland.

A rural housing burden (“burden”) can be added into the title of a property or house plot in rural Scotland, by section 43 of the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003. Such a burden is generally imposed on a plot of land or building when a property is first sold. The policy objective underpinning the legislation is to maintain the stock of affordable homes in rural areas.

The burden allows a rural housing body to be able to keep future sales of the property within the community through a right of pre-emption. In the event of a sale, the rural housing body has the first opportunity to purchase the property. If that opportunity is not utilised and the property is sold on the open market, the burden  remains on the title. The rural housing body will therefore retain the right of pre-emption of the property at any subsequent sales. Rural housing burdens can be freely negotiated and may specify the terms on which the burdened property may be bought back.

The property on which a burden has been placed may have been purchased at below market value, in which case the burden can maintain affordability in future sales. The burden will remain on the title of the property in perpetuity – meaning that the property will retain affordable, community benefit throughout all future sales. If the rural housing body is wound up they may consider transferring the burdens to another body in the area otherwise the burden will fall. 

A condition of the burden is that the property must be occupied as a primary residence, which helps to ensure that homes continue to be used as a primary residence in perpetuity. Rural housing burdens cannot be used when land is being sold under the right to buy legislation.

The burden can be applied to a property by a rural housing body. An organisation can become a Rural Housing Body if they consider that they meet the criteria set out in section 43(6) by application to Scottish Ministers. This is done by sending an application to the Civil Law and Legal System Division of the Scottish Government. Any application can be sent to the contact details below. There is no pro-forma for an application. A letter should be submitted setting out the reasons why your organisation is seeking designation as a Rural Housing Body. A copy of its constitution and/or memorandum and articles of association should be enclosed. This demonstrates that these include the appropriate objects or functions as set down in section 43(6) of the 2003 Act.

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