By David Gibbon – RICS Accredited Conservation Professional
Yesterday I learnt that there was a gaping hole in my knowledge. I learnt that the Housing Act (Scotland) 2006 gave powers to local authorities to issue Statutory Notices to enforce repairs of private property. This fact is no doubt well known by lots of people involved in the repair and maintenance of housing in Scotland but it had escaped me altogether.
I understand that this power is used in Glasgow but that Edinburgh decided to stick with the Edinburgh District Council order Confirmation Act 1991 because it gave the council greater scope for high handed behaviour and a possibly money making line (although it turned out to be the opposite).
The system in Glasgow operates in a quite benign manner, genuinely as a last resort and with independent surveyors appointed by the council but working very closely with the owners and treating them as the client. My understanding is (and I may have got this wrong) that the statutory notice is only served on a defaulter. If that’s right it makes sense and is less like a collective punishment. In the course of this it seems that, unlike Edinburgh, Glasgow doesn’t or can’t zero rate for VAT the charges it ultimately makes to the defaulting owners. The ability to zero rate the cost of repairs is the ace in Edinburgh’s deck of cards, along with its closely guarded access to the contact details of owners and, of course, its draconian and unaccountable powers of enforcement.
In Edinburgh they also employed external consultants but they did it very badly and at no point was working with the owners and treating them as clients seen to be any part of the game.
Glasgow and everywhere in Scotland continues to have big problems getting the owners of common property to work together in their own best interests so there’s much more to be done to solve this problem but removing Edinburgh’s power under the Edinburgh District Council Order Confirmation Act 1991 would be a good start although no doubt CEC would find a means of implementing the 2006 Act in a high handed and arrogant manner consistent with the culture of the organisation.
David Gibbon is a Founder and Director at GLM, a mixed practice of building surveyors, architects and project managers and he is accredited by RICS in Conservation. He specialises in the care and conservation of historic buildings. He is an outspoken advocate of Statutory Notice reform in Edinburgh and of more general reform of the arrangements for common repairs in Scotland as a whole. If you would like to learn more about common repairs policy in Scotland, please email David at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter for common repairs updates on @Mrdeegee