Residents learn how to fight council repairs bills

Paul McIntosh addresses the meeting. Picture: Toby Williams
Paul McIntosh addresses the meeting. Picture: Toby Williams
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DOZENS of concerned homeowners gathered to hear legal advice on how to fight controversial repair bills issued by the city council.

The long-running saga has seen people across the Capital hit by cash demands to carry out repairs when they and their neighbours could not reach agreement.

The public meeting at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre saw speakers from law firm Aberdein Considine discuss the options available to homeowners and the risks they might face in their legal battle.

Speaking at the event Paul McIntosh, an associate partner at Aberdein Considine, said defending the action in court could be “risky” and could expose the homeowners to having to cover the council’s expenses.

But he added: “Going to court gives residents the chance to challenge the council, make them prove their case and allow for more detailed examination of the Statutory Notice process and the costs incurred.”

Other options open to homeowners include paying the sum demanded, making a payment plan to settle the bill or to do nothing and let the decree pass.

David Gibbon, a chartered building surveyor specialising in conservation, and Gordon Murdie, a quantity surveyor, also spoke at the event.

One homeowner, who is considering legal action, claimed to have set aside around £2000 to pay for the statutory repairs to her Newington Home when she bought it back in 2001 but she said that the cost had now risen to around £9000,

A council spokesman said: “Last year, we upped the pace on resolving the long-standing problems associated with the former property conservation service, introducing an independent, objective and consistent approach to reviewing legacy projects. This new approach has worked well.

“Clearly, we have a duty to recover outstanding costs on behalf of the taxpayer, but only those deemed reasonable and legitimate [via independent assessment] have been billed to owners. The remainder have been written off.”

The law firm behind the free seminar said it had expected about 30 people to attend at its office.

But Aberdein Considine’s offer was met with such interest that the firm moved the meeting to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

The seminar also saw experts take questions from residents about the statutory repair system which saw builders contracted by the council used and residents billed later.

According to Aberdein Considine, the value of notices issued by council surveyors increased dramatically from £9.2 million in 2005 to more than £30m in 2010, with some homeowners complaining work that was “expensive, unnecessary and of poor quality”.

The repair system was suspended in 2011 after claims bribes were offered by contractors with unduly close relationships to officials but there was no evidence of criminality.