Daniel Johnson: Sharing the problems of shared housing

Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern.
Daniel Johnson, Scottish Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern.
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One of the most common issues raised with me by constituents is how to deal with some form of shared repair or maintenance issue in their tenement.

Their stories all centre on basic repairs or maintenance, that you think it would be easy to sort out among neighbours.

However, the central problem is that with shared responsibilities, it can sometimes feel like it is no- one’s responsibility!

With an ever-increasing number of HMOs, short-term lets, festival lets, absentee landlords, intransigent letting agents and property factors, it means that trying to get those responsible to share the cost or repairs can be a real struggle.

Unless someone in the building is willing to step up and shoulder the up-front costs of fixing that damaged front door, broken lock or dodgy banister then the problem remains, to the irritation of all.

That can even cause tension among neighbours.

Even the controversial introduction of the new garden waste charge has been an issue. Sure, it might be £25, but why should one household cover the cost for everyone and then hope to get a few pounds back for 7 or 8 neighbours?

Surely the council have some responsibility here? Surely, as landlords in many buildings in Edinburgh, they should be able to shoulder some of the burden?

The problem is that the council rarely gets involved unless it considers the repair to be an emergency – a gas leak or water pouring in through the ceiling.

And even that may change as the council is set to implement its next round of cuts imposed by the Scottish Government. Edinburgh Council is looking to save £28 million from the 2019/2020 budget.

In my role as a MSP I have decided to take an active role on this vital issue. I am the Vice Convenor of a new cross-party working group on the Maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property which formed in Parliament this year.

While several different issues have been discussed since the group first met in March, one thing that we all agree on is that current legislation doesn’t go far enough. It needs to provide a far surer footing upon which residents can take action either on common repairs or carrying out long term essential maintenance. The goal is to look at ways for improvements to be made and push for government to make a meaningful difference in this vital area.

Repairs and maintenance in shared housing is a hassle, but it doesn’t need to be. I’ll continue to push for action from both the council and the Scottish Government on this important issue.

n Daniel Johnson is Scottish Labour Party MSP for Edinburgh Southern