VICTIMS of the Capital’s long-running statutory repairs scandal are to be given up to a decade to repay debts imposed by the defunct property conservation department.
Plans to extend the maximum settlement period from four to ten years have been given the green light, while interest rates are also set to be reviewed.
It is the latest move in a bid to restore fairness and trust in Edinburgh’s statutory repairs process.
The system was suspended, then replaced in April last year, amid allegations staff were bribed by some contractors in exchange for lucrative repair jobs.
Auditors at Deloitte have been paid £3 million to resolve hundreds of disputed cases from the long-running saga that saddled the Capital with £30m of debt.
And invoices worth around £5.5m – which were issued to property owners who refused to pay for repairs they considered over-engineered or unnecessary – have also been written off.
The agreement to extend repayment timescales has been welcomed by victims of the scandal.
Inverleith homeowner Tanya Ivackovic, 50, who led the fight against a £2300 water bill which followed repairs carried out more than four years ago, said: “I think it does sound like a fair idea.
“However, when they’re talking about extending time, I would also maybe ask the question about the statute of limitation, and how long City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) takes to issue a substantiated final account [for repairs carried out].
“There are hundreds and hundreds of people in limbo in Edinburgh, waiting for a final account. So they’re not getting an opportunity to make a payment on that debt because they can’t check the bill.”
Statutory notice-related invoices have historically been due for full payment, or agreement of a payment plan, within 28 days of the invoice date.
Under the new system, property owners with combined debts of up to £5000 will be offered a plan covering up to four years.
For debts between £5,000 and £10,000, the payment period will extend to seven years, while those owing more than £10,000 will have up to a decade.
Gordon Murdie, a chartered surveyor who represents more than 200 clients affected by the statutory repairs controversy, said: “CEC really have no option other than to offer a sensible and affordable repayment plan but it must be based on the demonstrably correct amount actually due and at a fair rate of interest.
“Equally, when owners can establish they have substantially overpaid in many years gone by, it may be they will accept refunds on an affordable monthly basis from CEC.”
City chiefs insisted the changes were for fairness. A spokesman said: “In light of the issues arising out of the former statutory repairs service, and the size of the bills that some homeowners are now facing, we have reviewed our debt policy to make it more flexible, allowing repayments to be made over a more manageable period of time.”