Council repairs: £125 charge for abuse of system

The shared repairs service replaces the shamed property conservation system. Picture: Callum Bennetts
The shared repairs service replaces the shamed property conservation system. Picture: Callum Bennetts
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HOMEOWNERS who wrongly flag up cases of “emergency repairs” will be hit with £125 charges under new statutory repair guidelines waved through at City Chambers.

Unjustified call-outs for emergency inspections by council surveyors will land owners with costs ranging from £90-£125 plus VAT – but if concerns are raised by “passers-by” no fees will be levied.

Critics say the new guidelines for the Shared Repairs Service – which replaced the shamed property conservation service in April – would inevitably lead to people avoiding call-out payments by “reporting problems indirectly” through friends or relatives, defeating the “purpose of the charge in the first place”.

The city hopes to drastically slash the number of erroneous emergency call-outs they were previously obliged to attend by introducing the charges as it emerged only around 16.5 percent of all cases actually led to a statutory notice being served.

In the last nine months since the new overhauled service was launched the council has only reaped around £127,000 from 653 inspections – the majority of which were low-cost repairs such as drainage.

The move comes as Tory councillor Iain Whyte raised concerns about the number of debates over the new Shared Repairs Service being held in private.

Gavin Corbett, finance convenor for Edinburgh Greens, said the “passer-by” loophole undermined the new charging structure. He said: “The Shared Repairs Service is rightly based on the principle private owners of private homes should pay for the costs of maintaining those homes and the common areas, like roofs in flats and drains. So it is reasonable of the council to look at charges for that service.

“However, I fear the call-out charges will need to go back to drawing board as it seems like a recipe for confusion and evasion. First, if only the person making the call is liable for the cost of the visit, which could be as much as £150, it will simply lead to passing the buck.

“Secondly, it will inevitably also lead to people reporting problems indirectly in an attempt to avoid charges, which then defeats the purpose of the charge in the first place.”

Finance Convenor Alasdair Rankin said: “Following its successful introduction last April, a number of enhancements will be made to the new Shared Repairs Service.

“Proposals for an emergency call-out charge, facilitation service and trusted trader scheme continue to progress and I am confident that, once introduced, these services will provide welcome assistance to homeowners across Edinburgh.

“The purpose of the call-out charge is to strike a better balance between encouraging homeowners to take responsibility for their own properties while ensuring genuine emergencies don’t go unreported.”