NIGHTMARE tenants who deliberately wreck their council-owned homes are to be charged for repairs for the first time under new plans.
Until now, rules which could have seen tenants of Edinburgh City Council pay for repairs where the damage was caused wilfully or negligently have been barely enforced.
The policy caused dismay among some council staff members, who were forced to authorise or carry out repeat repairs free of charge, and responsible neighbours who would see regular maintenance being carried out on other properties inhabited by yobs.
It is believed that between two and three per cent of repairs carried out by the council have been caused deliberately by tenants – leaving the local authority with an annual bill of up to £600,000.
Under the new clampdown householders who behave like the dysfunctional Frank Gallagher from TV’s Shameless and irresponsibly wreck homes will be hit in the pocket with the full cost of repairs.
Councillor Cammy Day, the city’s housing leader, said: “The council is investing millions of pounds on new kitchens, bathrooms and heating systems and we want to make sure the stock we’ve got will last a long time.
“This is about people who are persistently causing deliberate damage. If it’s an accident, we fix it. If it’s in relation to kids who have some behavioural problems or violence in the house then we will give support.
“But for persistent people who are damaging council property we will look to recharge them. Where irresponsible tenants damage or neglect their home all other tenants have to pay for it – that’s not fair.”
The problem has been long-running – in 2002, the council moved to evict a family who had caused so much damage to their home in Burdiehouse Drive that it had been rendered uninhabitable, pictured above.
The rechargeable repair proposals are set to be discussed at the council’s health, social care and housing committee next week, and have already won the backing of the Edinburgh Tenants Federation. It is also hoped that the new system could be used to identify vulnerable householders who may require additional support by flagging up violent behaviour.
Cathy King, the council’s head of housing and regeneration, said responsible tenants had nothing to fear from the policy, which she said would target serial offenders and apply only in cases where damage was clearly caused deliberately or through negligence.
She added: “We don’t expect it will generate a huge amount of money, but it’s to try and redress the perception that we’ll repair anything, no matter how badly they treat their home.
“Tenants have expressed quite a lot of frustration. They will see somebody next door to them having repairs done repeatedly, whereas they have lived there 20 or 30 years and never had a repair, and they’re being charged the same rent.”