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Scottish and English Property Law

Get in touch with our team at Kaur Sutherland Solicitors.

How do they differ?

Scottish and English property laws have always retained a unique and separate character, but this process has accelerated since the Scottish Parliament assumed responsibility for land law in 1999 – with implications for both commercial property and domestic conveyancing.

The most important differences between property law in Scotland and England in terms of procedures and terminology are as follows

Buying a house in Scotland process:-

•  Outright ownership – equivalent to ‘freehold’ in England – is known as ‘heritable title’
•  A contract is established through a series of formal solicitors’ letters known as ‘missives’. These missives are replied to with counter offers known as “qualified acceptance”.
•  There is no second stage of this process equivalent to ‘exchange of contract’ and a binding contract is reached upon acceptance of all points in a missive letter.
•  Missive letters may also contain ‘suspensive conditions’, conditions which, if not met, allow for automatic termination of the contracts. The most common example is an adverse survey.
•  The full purchase price is usually paid at completion with no deposit paid before this point without explicit agreement.


•  The missive process does not occur in most commercial transactions, with an initial offer issued in draft form and adjusted through negotiation rather than through formal exchange of letters.
•  There is no equivalent of the English Landlord and Tenant Acts covering certain aspects of commercial lease in Scotland.
•  There is generally no right to renew beyond the period of lease in Scotland and generally there is no security of tenure beyond the period of the lease contained in the contract with the exception of certain limited rights in relation to the tenants of retail premises. If termination is not served within the correct timescale however, tenants are entitled to 12 months continuation at existing terms.
•  Scottish leases cannot be granted for more than 175 years (20 years for residential properties).
•  Under Scottish law a lease is automatically terminated if the property let by the lease is destroyed or damaged sufficiently to render the property useless
•  Tenants are not entitled to any compensation for improvements made to the property at the end of a lease unless explicit contractual provision has been made for this.
•  In Scotland where a tenant assigns its interest in a lease the assignee takes its place and becomes the tenant, and the original tenant has no responsibility to the landlord after the date of assignation. Traditionally in England the first tenant will continue to have a contingent liability to the landlord during the whole period of the lease

Commercial Energy Performance

New energy efficiency regulations came into force in Scotland in Autumn 2016, which  significantly affect the commercial lease of properties.

If you own a commercial building you must publicly and prominently display an Energy Performance Certificate demonstrating how energy efficient your building is using grades from A to G, if:

•  the total floor area is above 500 square meters
•  the building is regularly visited by the public
an EPC has already been produced for the building’s sale, rental or construction.
•  You must have an EPC if you rent out or sell the premises and you will be fined up to £5000
•  if you do not make an EPC available to any prospective buyer or tenant.

Additional regulations came into force in Scotland in September 2016 under Section 63 of the 2009 Climate Change Act, designed to improve energy efficiency and triggered by the sale or lease to a new tenant of the property.

In addition to existing Energy Performance Certification building owners must prepare a Section 63 Action Plan setting out targets for energy and emission savings and detailing what physical improvements are planned to improve energy efficient, and the timescales involved.

As with an traditional EPC for commercial property, the Action Plan must be made available to prospective buyers or tenants and provided to new owners or tenants.

Frequently Asked Questions
Will I have to pay Additional Dwelling Supplement?

If you have not sold your main residence on the day you complete your new purchase you'll have to pay ADS. This is because you own 2 properties. You can apply for a refund if you sell your previous main home within 18 months.

How long does the Conveyancing process take?

The conveyancing process usually takes between 6 and 12 weeks but will vary. Depending on your situation, your case can take much longer than 6-12 weeks. Conveyancing can take a long time for many reasons. Each step of the process must be completed correctly to avoid even further delay.

Do I have to pay anything upfront?

Our firm does not charge any upfront fees for our service. The  'no completion, no fee' means you only need to pay us on the completion date.

Can I Buy and Sell at the same time?

In an ideal world, you’d sell your home the minute you put it on the market and then have all the time you need to find your next dream home while your buyers wait patiently until you’re ready to move. Unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world and in most cases you’ll need to sell and buy at the same time. This results in a housing chain. While not uncommon, property chains can cause significant headaches. So if you’re planning to buy and sell your house at the same time, make sure you’re prepared.  We can help keep everything runs smoothly and according to plan.

How much Land and Building Transaction Tax will I need to pay?

The residential LBTT rates are based on the purchase price bands, with a ceiling for nil rates set at £145,000 A relief for first-time buyers is available, which increases the residential nil rate band of LBTT to £175,000.The availability of the relief will result in a reduction in tax of up to £600 for qualifying first-time buyers, relative to the rates which would have otherwise applied.

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