After the scandals about alleged collusion between officials and builders to inflate bills it is perhaps understandable that the City of Edinburgh Council appears to be moving towards a position where it only intervenes in the most urgent of cases (your report, 2 August).
I fear that the proposed laissez-faire approach would be disastrous for the tenement housing stock and Edinburgh’s largely stone-built city centre.
There is no tradition of factoring in Edinburgh, unlike Glasgow. Each stair is a collection of individual owners, many of whom nowadays are not resident in the flats. Tenants change, often, on a six-monthly cycle.
It is almost impossible for an owner concerned about the state of his building to find out who owns the other properties, let alone organise joint repairs.
The statutory notice system allowed the council to carry out necessary repairs and recover costs from owners. As a last resort an inhibition on the property meant this could be done at some time in the future when the property was sold.
That option is not open to individual owners without lengthy and expensive court action. I would suggest that the Pontius Pilate approach described in the council report can only work if there were measures such as compulsory factoring, service charges and a simple method of recovering costs.
In my view that would require legislation by the Scottish Parliament (which has already had one ineffectual attempt at reforming tenement law).
The current system served Edinburgh well for years and was run by staff who were skilled, knowledgeable and had a genuine concern for the built environment. It is a great pity that the actions of a few individuals have brought such an Edinburgh institution into disrepute.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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