Political power couple in HMO row

Colin Beattie with wife Lisa. Picture: Neil Hanna
Colin Beattie with wife Lisa. Picture: Neil Hanna
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THE leader of Midlothian Council and her MSP husband are locked in a row with neighbours who claim the couple have shown “incompetence” as landlords.

Dr Lisa Beattie and her husband, Colin Beattie, have applied to renew the HMO rental licence on a student flat they own in Marchmont.

The flat in Thirlestane Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The flat in Thirlestane Road. Picture: Ian Georgeson

However, a neighbour in the block has objected to the move over allegations the Beatties failed to fix a waste pipe leak, which left gallons of waste water pouring into a communal garden for months at a time on two separate occasions.

Stephen Armstrong, who owns a neighbouring flat and says he represents three other residents, also claimed the couple embarked on “petty vendettas” against both contractors and other residents – which the Beatties have strongly denied.

Another neighbour, Jane Ramsay, previously wrote to council officials complaining that she was unable to sit in her garden due to effluence pouring from the building, although she is not objecting to the application.

Mr Armstrong also went on to claim the Beatties failed to contribute to communal stair cleaning for three years, which the Beatties insisted was because excessive use of water was eroding the stone steps.

In response, Mr Beattie, 60, the SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said the kitchen drain first burst in 2009 and took three months to fix because of the severe winter – but insisted he and his wife had not been notified of any problems since.

In a letter to the council, Dr Beattie insisted some of the claims were unfair and inaccurate, and went on to describe others as a “fabrication”.

Council officials would normally take a decision on HMO licences but the objection means it is being brought before councillors tomorrow.

Dr Beattie had asked for the details of her application to be kept under wraps – because she is in a “sensitive occupation” – but they were published due to the objection.

Mr Armstrong wrote to the council’s legal department: “In December 2009 the kitchen drain failed, with effluent repeatedly pouring into the rear garden. It took the management over three months to effect this simple repair.”

Mr Armstrong went on to claim a second problem had run on for eight months – which the Beatties refuted.

He listed a series of complaints against the couple, including that they were late to pay for communal painting.

He wrote: “In 2009 the stair proprietors completed a repainting of the stair well. It has to be noted that this flat was the last, by a significant period to pay their share; the only flat to complain about the agreed colour scheme after the event and took it upon themselves to quibble with the contractor directly.”

He went on to claim the Beatties had been “publicly defamatory” about the contractor although he included no evidence.

He claimed the “management has repeatedly imagined faults with other properties and the common fabric affecting his property” and said they had ignored professional advice for “no good reason and incompetence”.

Dr Beattie, who was appointed the first female leader of Midlothian Council last month, rents the property to four students. She was drawn into a terse exchange of letters with the council’s legal department over the complaints.

Responding to Jane Ramsay’s letter, she wrote: “I regret any inconvenience to Miss Ramsay in relation to this repair although it seems to me that her inability to sit out in her garden during one of the coldest winters on record may not have been directly connected with the intermittent leak.”

Mr Beattie said the matter had been resolved and some of the claims by Mr Armstrong were “extraordinary”.

He said: “We were concerned when [Mr Armstrong] said he was acting for three other owners but when Lisa got in touch with the HMO department they said he was the only one complaining.”

He added: “We’ve been working with the other owners on major repair works to the stonework on the building, and it’s actually Mr Armstrong who isn’t taking part on this occasion.”

Mr Armstrong could not be contacted for comment.