Edinburgh Statutory repair notices

24 January 2012

Statutory Repair notices can be a useful tool for local authorities to ensure that properties in their area are kept in good condition. The powers can be used where owners of communal property, such as found in tenement properties, cannot reach agreement on shared repair costs. In those circumstances, homeowners would be given a time limit to reach agreement before the council would commence repairs themselves. Provisions yet to come into force in the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 mean these will be known as ‘work notices’.

In particular, The City of Edinburgh Council is able to serve these repair notices on homeowners under unique powers given to them by the City of Edinburgh District Council Order Confirmation Act 1991. Due to the international importance of its historic buildings, and in the interests of public safety, the power is designed to preserve and protect buildings that are neglected and falling into disrepair, and which could become potentially hazardous to the public. The notices enable the council to instruct repairs to the property, including repairs to the roof, elevations, and damaged masonry, as well as drainage, pipework and rot. The council then sends the bill to the homeowners. They are powerless to question the council, or the contractors, over the work carried out and the associated cost, and in most cases, the bill rises far beyond the original estimate.

However, an ongoing investigation is being carried out due to allegations of misuse of these powers. Hundreds of complaints have been made by Edinburgh homeowners affected by the legislation, and allegations of corruption and fraud by council officials have led to sackings and suspensions within the council. It is alleged that councillors favoured certain building contractors in exchange for bribes, and that the contractors routinely overcharged for work that was often done to a poor standard, or sometimes not done at all. The issue has been well publicised, with a BBC investigation being televised last year. The Council is now only undertaking emergency works, or completing work ongoing while the investigation is being carried out.

The growing row over alleged substandard and unnecessary works carried out in Edinburgh has once again been in the headlines. The Edinburgh Evening News this week reported on another case where a homeowner was ordered to have work carried out that she did not believe to be necessary. She claims the work carried out was so substandard that her property is no longer wind and watertight. It seems that along with being left with a bill for the initial repairs that is considerably more than first estimated, the remedial work could also leave the homeowner much worse off.

Ultimately, it is always best to try to reach an amicable agreement with your neighbours over common repairs, in order to stay in control of costs and progress of the work. The alternative can be that the council will take control, and while the stories emerging from Edinburgh are now unlikely to be repeated elsewhere, it will still be in the best interests of homeowners to come to their own agreement. There are other options to explore if one householder in a tenement is refusing to pay for repairs, and Inksters can assist you with deciding on the best course of action.  

If you require advice or assistance concerning common repairs then contact our Brian Inkster or Louise King by email or call us on 0141 229 0880.

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