Calls for more action to improve maintenance of tenement properties

Greater action to encourage owners to repair and maintain the condition of tenement properties across Scotland, including stairwells, roofs, masonry and external walls, will be debated by MSPs at Holyrood today.

SNP MSP Ben Macpherson is calling for the Scottish Government to review current legislation and mechanisms for facilitating communal repairs, and to consider any potential legislative changes and new initiatives that could help owners to better maintain their tenements, which are the most common type of dwelling in Scotland.

There are over half a million tenement properties in Scotland and Mr Macpherson will argue that maintenance of these buildings is vital in order to future proof current housing stock, improve the well-being of residents, ensure public safety and preserve the integrity of Scotland’s urban infrastructure.

The Edinburgh Northern and Leith MSP said current Scottish Government efforts to improve the situation are having a positive impact – such as through the 2014 Housing Act and the Under One Roof initiative – but he added that many believe that more can and needs to be done to ensure tenement properties are not only maintained but made safer, greener and more enjoyable to live in.

Commenting ahead of leading the debate, Ben Macpherson MSP 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, often including absent landlords or occupants with only short-term interests in the buildings.

“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.”

Ben Macpherson

“Across different demographics and areas, in many instances the measures that we currently have in place for maintaining tenement buildings are simply not working as effectively as they need to.

“The SNP government has taken positive steps to improve the system by building on existing legislation – and the 2014 Housing Act and the Under One Roof initiative have helped make progress.

“However, 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 to more easily allow and persuade owners to come together to instruct works, in order to undertake necessary repairs and improve communal aspects of tenement buildings, and to prevent the fabric of our built environments from decaying.

“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.”

RICS policy manager for Scotland, Hew Edgar, said: “RICS has long held the view that all property should be used effectively and efficiently – the fact that this motion has now been raised at parliament, and gained cross party support, is very reassuring. RICS welcomes that this salient issue is now at the forefront of the parliamentary agenda in Scotland.

“The poor quality of tenements in Scotland has been a long running issue which RICS has frequently called for reform on. Our proposal for a five yearly building condition survey could be a sure-fire way to improve the health and social wellbeing of tenement occupiers, the government’s sustainability agenda and the wider economy.”

Euan Leitch, director of Built Environment Forum Scotland, added: “Built Environment Forum Scotland’s Members are delighted to see the Scottish Parliament address the challenges of maintaining buildings under shared ownership. The matter not only deals with the important longevity of building fabric, and the subsequent high-quality housing stock being kept in circulation, but the warmth and security of those homes – providing additional benefits in improved quality of life, health and wellbeing of citizens. Any review that results in improved maintenance and repair of existing homes will also be good for Scotland’s economy.”

Architect Dr James Simpson OBE FRIAS of the Tenement Action Group said: “Promoting good practice in the management and maintenance of tenements is an essential part of preserving and enhancing Scotland’s housing stock. New action and legislation is required to help owners to protect their and the nation’s assets. Ownership implies responsibility, but owners and local authorities need the government’s support and encouragement.”

The motion for today’s debate reads:

That the Parliament recognises that a significant proportion of people in Edinburgh and across Scotland live in tenement buildings; believes that the maintenance of communal property, otherwise known as the common parts or “Scheme Property” as defined in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004, in tenements is essential to the upkeep of the buildings and the standard of living for owner occupiers and tenants; understands with concern that, in many cases, such Scheme Property is in a state of disrepair, degradation or deterioration; believes that current legislation is not consistently fulfilling its intention to encourage owners to establish effective arrangements for managing communal repairs and undertaking maintenance; acknowledges the various potential solutions put forward by groups and individuals in the housing sector to help address this issue, and notes the view that, for the wellbeing of owner occupiers and tenants and to sustain and enhance the country’s urban infrastructure and environments, the government should review the situation and consider any legislative changes, new initiatives, enhanced use of existing rules and/or further action by local authorities that could facilitate improved upkeep of Scheme Property.”