Edinburgh City Council is proposing a major revamp of its controversial housing repairs system following allegations of bribery, overcharging and unnecessary and poor quality work

The Council's long standing system of statutory notices to enforce essential repairs on properties, where owners fail to reach agreement or action work themselves, is set to be abandoned in favour of encouragement to residents, and in particular those of the city's historic tenements, to manage their own repairs, with the local authority intervening only as a last resort - the original intention of the statutory notice system

A survey of property owners, tenants and the public is proposed as well as consulation with solicitors, surveyors and other property market experts

Council proposals include

•    Providing or contracting a property factoring service

•    Assisting owners to develop a 'tenement management scheme'

•    Reintroducing a service like the Edinburgh Stair Partnership to support private owners in managing their own repairs

•    Carrying out inspections on buildings at risk and reporting these to owners.

Safe and Sound

Alasdair Rankin, Edinburgh City Council's Finance and Resources Convener, said: "We must have a clear break with the past to reassure the public that the Council has cleaned up its act. The circumstances in which the Council intervenes on maintaining private properties needs to be much more under control. Ultimately the responsibility to keep a building safe lies with the owner. The Council will continue to take steps to protect the public from dangerous buildings, but what has to be established is what the public think about the extent of our involvement in other situations"

Robyn Lowe of Blair Cadell comments that statutory notices on solicitors commercial leases have long been an issue for buying and selling clients in Edinburgh.  There are so many outstanding notices that it is very likely that a tenement property will be affected in some way, and this may have an adverse effect on a sale of the property. In the absence of formal property factoring arrangments (compared with for example Glasgow) proprietors have been left to sort things out for themselves, and with the challenges of reaching mutual agreement on common repairs, a default to the Council's statutory notice system has taken root. Robyn says: "The Council's objective will surely now be to re-focus owners to view mutual property maintenance as a matter of direct and routine responsibility. Maintaining the common fabric of a building will surely benefit everyone"

One of Robyn's clients, newly arrived from New York, was put off living in a tenement in Edinburgh as she observed that the co-proprietors generally did not seem to be interested in looking after shared stair or garden areas, a situation that seemed very surprising compared with her experiences in even the most modest housing block in Manhattan.  Here's hoping for more positive comparisons in future


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