Edinburgh flat owners could be told to pay into common fund

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Every person living in a tenement in Scotland could be forced to pay into a common fund for repairs following the success of a £1 million trial scheme in Edinburgh.

Repairs officers from the city council have been giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament working group ahead of final recommendations to overhaul the national rules being launched next month.

Every person living in a tenement in Scotland could be forced to pay into  a common fund

Every person living in a tenement in Scotland could be forced to pay into a common fund

Recommendations, which have already received cross-party support, are for compulsory owners associations to be set up, compulsory sinking funds for repairs and building condition surveys to be carried out every five years on tenements.

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The Edinburgh Shared Repairs Service (ESRS), has enabled works valued at £956,000 to be carried out since being launched in 2017. The council only pays for shared repairs work as a last resort and hopes to recoup the money from absent owners – leaving the primary responsibility for maintenance of the property with the owners.

Jackie Timmons, Edinburgh shared repairs service manager, said: “We have been looking at any ways we can make it easier for owners to do the works themselves without enforcement. The missing shares policy has got huge value.

“There are some owners that don’t want to get involved in the process. But in half of the missing shares cases the missing share owners have paid it before we have to pay it.

“We’re the only local authority in Scotland to have introduced a lawful process to share absent owners’ details to lead owners. It helps take that financial and reputational risk away from the council and allows the owners to get the work done themselves.”

The three recom­mendations will be issued in a final report by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in conjunction with Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS).

Input from the city council’s success has helped the recommendations be brought forward.

Ms Timmons added: “We believe it has cross-party support and the housing minister has agreed to have a lengthy debate in parliament in the autumn on the recommendations – which will be launched on June 4 by the RICS and BEFS.

“There has been a consultation already and by and large, everybody wants these recommendations to go forward – it’s just how we do it. A sinking fund would be like a pension for the building – you can’t take it with you when you leave. You need to always be looking after the future of the building.”

The council’s shared repairs scheme has achieved a rate of 70 per cent of cases being resolved without enforcement action. Of these, 13 per cent have been applications for missing shares.

Finance and revenue convener Cllr Alasdair Rankin said: “A lot of the push for the set-up of the parliamentary working group came from Edinburgh. We have long had the greatest problem with this. People need to get title deeds adjusted to get factoring to happening and that’s a big legal obstacle to get over.

“A lot of the tenements are quite old and lots are built of sandstone which weathers and doesn’t last forever. I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of owners who move into tenemented properties for the first time aren’t aware of their responsibilities.

“The building surveys would give us a clear idea of where repairs need to be done and it will give them an idea of how much money they will need to put into the fund.”