Council is owed £8m for repairs to homes

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MORE than £8 million is owed to the council for repairs carried out to private homes in Edinburgh, it emerged today.

A huge rise in the number of "statutory repair notices" being issued is being blamed for the soaring number of outstanding bills.

The notices cover all sorts of repairs, from fixing crumbling stonework to replacing roofs, and are undertaken by the council on behalf of homeowners, who are later billed by the local authority.

A total of 24,143 repair notices were issued in the last year alone – nearly twice as many as in the previous year.

Bills still outstanding from 2001/02 currently total 29,565, while unpaid invoices from 2006/07 are standing at more than 1m.

City leaders today warned they will take all "appropriate steps" to recover money that is due to them, including the threat of legal action.

Due to the protracted nature of communal repairs, many of the 9000 outstanding bills for this financial year will be settled over the coming months and the 6.1m outstanding for 2007/08 will be reduced.

The city's finance leader, Gordon Mackenzie, said: "The profile of payments over the last four years shows that this is happening. The situation with outstanding amounts is normal, especially when you consider that some of the money is tied up in properties and will only become available once they are sold.

"The director of finance takes every possible step to recover monies due.

"In exceptional cases where the owner refuses to pay and the council has been successful in the court process, the owner can be legally inhibited from disposing of the property."

In the event an owner failing to pay for statutory repairs, then a final notice to pay is issued 28 days after the original invoice is issued. If the invoice is still unpaid after a further two weeks, officials will contact the property owner to try and arrange payment.

The final course of action is to begin legal proceedings in the Sheriff Court.

The high volume of statutory repair notice issued in Edinburgh reflects the historic nature of the city's buildings.

In 2005, figures released by the council showed that there were two masonry falls across the city every week.

The city's Tory leader, Councillor Iain Whyte, said: "I would like to think the council will be concentrating its efforts on chasing the outstanding debt from several years back.

"I think there are two factors behind the increase in notices – people are more aware of looking after their property after a number of stone falls in the city in recent years, but also the council has a team carrying out visual inspections of buildings."