A guide to managing tenement property

15 January 2012

The distinctive Scottish tenement is home to many in our cities and towns. The archetypal red or blond sandstone building is synonymous with Glasgow and Edinburgh, making up the majority of the housing stock. Living in a tenement means having plenty of neighbours around you who you may or may not ever come into contact with. But if things in your building go wrong – from a leaking roof to a repair to the stairwell banister, or even if it needs a fresh lick of paint, then knowing what the law is surrounding tenement management can be very useful.
Typically, statutory rules will apply when it comes to making decisions relating to managing the communal areas, unless the title deeds make specific provision for this. The Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 puts into writing the unwritten, 'common law' rules that regulate the management of these buildings. In the act, this is known as the Tenement Management Scheme. In order for the act to apply, there must be neighbours above or below you.
Most of the time, the key areas of concern for scheme property will be the ground that the building sits on, the foundations and external walls, mutual gable walls, or in fact any load bearing wall, and the roof. The communal stairway and the 'close' is owned in common by all those who use it to access their flats and perhaps any communal garden areas and paths that are not owned by one particular property. In terms of separating walls and floors, each flat owns to the mid-point of the structure.
It is worth noting that the whole roof counts as scheme property, even though the part of the roof directly above the top floor flats is owned by those flats.
When making decisions about maintenance, agreement can be reached by a majority of owners, although all owners in the building should be properly notified of planned work, in order  to agree to a decision. Each property would, logically, have one vote. 48 hours notice of such a decision (at an arranged meeting is probably most practical) is necessary. Following this, all owners must be notified of the decision and 28 days should pass before any work is carried out, in order to allow time for any decisions to be challenged. If this is not followed, the decision can be set aside by an owner by applying to the local Sheriff Court. The cost of any work is usually shared equally, except if any one flat is one and a half times the floor space of the smallest flat; in this case, costs are calculated proportionately to the floor area of the flats.
What if emergency repairs need to be carried out? In this case, the work can go ahead without the need to gain agreements of the neighbours, and costs can be recouped. However, it is important that the repairs are deemed necessary to warrant emergency action – if the work is needed to prevent damage to the property, and in the interests of health and safety, if will be classed as an emergency. All owners are liable for the cost as if it had been authorised as a scheme decision. As a general rule, all owners have a duty not to do anything that would harm the building or their neighbour’s properties so care should always be taken when carrying out work, whether structural or decorative to the inside or outside of the building.
Issues may arise if a neighbour refuses to pay their share. Inksters can advise if you have an uncooperative neighbour, or if any other disputes arise that relate to your tenement property. Please contact us for further information.


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