Holyrood law changes urged to encourage Scots to maintain tenement communal areas

A SNP MSP last night called on the Scottish Government to consider law changes to encourage people living in tenements to do more to maintain the communal areas of their properties.

Ben MacPherson, the Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP, said action had to be taken to improve the condition of Scotland’s half a million tenements, which account for 25 per cent of Scotland’s domestic property.

In a Holyrood debate, Mr MacPherson highlighted problems with insecure closes, messy, graffiti-ridden stairwells and back greens used by fly-tippers.

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In a debate notable for cross-party consensus, Mr MacPherson said current measures designed to ensure the upkeep of property were not working as effectively as they could.

Short-term ownership was leading to property owners having little interest in upkeep of common areas.

He noted he was dealing with a complex area of law that saw primary legislation overlap with private housing deeds and factoring arrangements.

Among his suggestions were creating new obligations on owners for maintenance, the allocation of more funding for repairs, forcing owners to contribute to funds and pressing the UK government for VAT relief on repairs.

He also suggested the introduction of routine inspections, creating a legal obligation for housing checks, a move he compared to MOTs for cars.

Mr MacPherson said: “Too many tenement properties in my constituency and around the country are in a state of disrepair – this is primarily because of the fact that the responsibility for communal repairs is split among multiple owners,

“We need to go further to motivate, enable and, if necessary in certain circumstances, compel owners to take more responsibility for their tenement buildings – because too often at the moment this just isn’t happening.

“We need better maintained properties to enhance our tenement housing stock and to help make sure that everyone in Scotland lives in a safe, well looked after and warm place to call home.”

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Housing minister Kevin Stewart said that 68 per cent of homes in Scotland still had some degree of disrepair. That ranged from minor problems such as leaking taps to the 
3 per cent of cases where the disrepair was critical, urgent and extensive.

Mr Stewart encouraged local authorities to use so-called “missing shares” powers, which can see councils pay into maintenance accounts where an owner refuses to do so. He also announced that “missing share” powers would be extended to registered social landlords.

But Mr Stewart said he would not be rushed into creating new laws.

“While there is no monopoly on good ideas and we will look at all possible solutions, I am reluctant to rush into legislation especially where we have recent changes which are still to bed in, where existing powers are being underused.”