Shared Repairs in Edinburgh Tenements

Organising shared repairs in Edinburgh Tenements can be daunting.

Guidance for shared / communal repairs in Edinburgh Tenements

Organising shared repairs on Edinburgh tenements can be a bit of a minefield:

  • Who should organise the work?
  • Who should pay what?
  • What role does the council have?
  • How much will work cost?
  • How do you find out who owns the properties in the block?
  • How do you deal with those who refuse to contribute to the costs?
  • Who is the right tradesperson to do the job?

This article provides answers to those and other questions.

  1. What shared repairs might be needed and what trade does them?
Stair Light RepairsAll owners in stair.Electrician (Ideally Certified but not essential)Stopped in July 2016.
Still pay for electricity
Requires special key to access light covers.
Considering swapping lights to LED for lower energy consumption and less maintenance.
Door Entry SystemAll flats that are affected.Door Entry Specialist. Some Electrician's deal with too.None: - See point 3 belowMost frequently affects single flat. Often easily repaired.
Drain blockage clearanceEither just those connected to drain or all (check title deeds - see 3 below)Drainage Specialist. (Some plumbers, or even roofers also deal with)Deal with if owners unable to resolve. Make administrative charge (£40 / property at time of writing)Annual clearing of gutters can help prevent.
Sometimes occurs after bathroom or kitchen alterations in one flat in block.
Roof Repairs. (including Chimneys)All owners in block Not just top floor flats. Or flats in stairwell. See point 3 below.Roofer
NB: Be sure roofer understands local building regs.
Emergency repair if danger to public safety (e.g. falling masonry or slates)Costs for emergency repair served by council applies to all owners irrespective of title deeds.
Gutter ClearingAll owners in the blockRoofer, Some Specialist Gutter Clearing companies. Cherry Picker / Access Platforms.
Rope Access Companies.
None: - See point 3 belowLeft to clog up blocked guttering can lead to the need for expensive internal and external repairs that will not be covered by insurance.
Stair CleaningOwners and / or tenants in stair.Cleaning CompanyNoneTenancy agreements can apportion responsibility to tenants.
Main / stair door repairs or replacementOwners within stairwellJoiner
NoneNot a job Joiners like (See 4 Below)
Stonework. Pointing. Render.All owners in blockStonemason or Builder. Possibly Plasterer.Emergency repair if danger to public safety (e.g. falling masonry or slates)Plasterer may be cheaper option for render or pointing work than builder or stonemason.
Stairwell Plastering or Painting.Owners within stairwellPlasterer
Painter / Decorator
None unless danger to public due to falling plaster.Often needed where there has been water damage round cupola.
GardenAll owners with access (whether or not they use it)Gardener
Garden Landscaper
(subject to size of job)
If owners do nothing after complaint made, council may enforce (for a charge) For garden walls etc see Stonework. Pointing. Render.

HomeForce can organise any and all of the above highlighted tradespeople.

All tradespeople are thoroughly vetted, continually appraised and have a proven reliability record.

2. Who pays for shared repairs? 

  • The title deeds of a property will usually state who is responsible for what proportion of costs – as well as the proportion of “voting rights” each property has.
  • What is stated in the title deeds always takes precedence over other legislation or agreements
  • Where title deeds are silent or unworkable The Tenements Act Scotland 2004 applies.
  • In that instance costs and voting rights are shared equally among all properties.
  • Tenement blocks may have one or more properties with their own door. In these instances those properties may not be responsible for work in the stairwell but will be responsible for their share of building fabric (Roof, Stonework, Gutters, Drains etc) and, probably, garden maintenance.
  • Where door entry systems affect just one flat that owner will be responsible. However, where a building fabric defect affects just one flat all flats will be responsible.

IMPORTANT: – The law specifies that a property owner is legally responsible for any accidents caused by defects in their building. That is to say if someone were to be injured due to a defect (such as falling plaster) then all owners in a tenement would be jointly and severally liable.

3. What role does the council take in shared repairs?

There was a time when owners could request Edinburgh Council to just get on with repairs. However the City of Edinburgh Council’s Statutory Notice scam put a stop to this.

a) Edinburgh Council will still issue a statutory notice when “There is a defect in a building that may be a risk to safety or health” (click on the link for more info)

b) They will also issue an advice notice and bill in the case of a drain blockage.

In either of the above cases the council will issue an equal share invoice to ALL the properties under the roof line from fire wall to fire wall.

There is a minimum charge per property and an administration fee may be added. (Click Here for more information)

c) For non urgent shared repairs the council provide a DIY Tool Kit. Note that this requires one owner to take the lead in organising the repairs. It is often an onerous task but one that they could legitimately asked to be remunerated for.

d) If one, or more, owner(s) refuses to pay for shared works and the majority of owners are in agreement to do the work then council provide a “Missing Shares Service”. An application can be made to the council to pay the “Missing Share”, the council will then recover the contribution from the non-paying owner(s).

4. Working with tradespeople on shared repairs.

Tradespeople are often reluctant to work on “Shared Repairs” for a number of reasons:

  • Time and effort providing costs for work that never goes ahead because owners cannot agree.
  • Multiple “options” requested on quotes to answer all the questions from all the owners.
  • Concerned they won’t be paid in full when work is completed or that they will be asked to get individual payments from each property owner.
  • “Decision by committee” often means quotes are not compared on a like for like basis and just the “cheapest” / lowest number is selected.
  • Once work starts owners may start issuing instructions on additional works and expect no further cost.
  • Dealing with multiple masters (i.e. all the owners) leads to conflicting requests and, ultimately, disputes.
  • Gaining access to “all properties” when needed can be problematic and time consuming.

5. HomeForce’s tips for working with tradespeople on communal projects

  • Seek agreement in principal with all owners BEFORE approaching tradespeople
  • If an initial “ballpark” cost is needed search on line. If calling a tradesperson ask if they can provide a ballpark cost, don’t ask for a quote straight off.
  • Don’t get the obligatory “Three Quotes” until the requirement is fully specified.
  • Understand what each quote received contains (materials to be used, areas to be worked on, why one tradesperson recommends something that another doesn’t etc.) so that a like for like comparison can be made.
  • For extensive works consider employing a surveyor. This ensures all works needed are identified AND that all tradespeople can quote on a like for like basis.
  • Ensure all owners pay their full share to a central account BEFORE instructing contractor / tradesperson.
  • Be aware that to diagnose a fault (and therefore quote to repair it) a tradesperson will charge for their time.
  • Ensure all owners know that the tradesperson will only take instruction from the lead owner. Direct all owners accordingly.

6. Finding the owners of flats in a tenement

Tracking down property owners can be troublesome if the properties are vacant or have tenants.

  • Tenants may not know, or be reluctant to say, who the owners are or may only deal with a letting agent.
  • Letting Agents may decline to provide owners details citing Data Protection laws (If they do, ask to see their Privacy Policy, it should include a clause saying when they will pass on details).

All home owners and landlords need to be registered. That information is publicly available.

Arrange a quote for a shared repair now: