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Compulsory checks on residential tenement blocks being considered in Scotland

Mandatory checks on residential tenement blocks in Scotland are under consideration amid concerns that maintenance is not always carried out when it is needed the most.

Tenement properties make up a quarter of all homes and according to the Scottish Housing Condition Survey, many need extensive, urgent and critical repairs. However, for numerous reasons, tenement maintenance is not undertaken at a time and place when it is needed most.

As part of the solution to tackle this problem, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has the backing of the Scottish Parliament and stakeholders to draw up proposals to encourage, and if necessary compel, common owners to have building condition surveys undertaken every five years.

RICS kick started the process last November at Parliamentary reception, and a debate on the issue in January following a motion on the issue lodged by MSP Ben Macpherson. This motion received cross party support, with all political parties agreeing that action to urge, assist and even compel tenement property owners to repair and maintain the property was required.

During this debate, all political parties recognised the work undertaken by stakeholders, particularly the working group on tenement scheme property, along with RICS and the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS.

The debate also covered whether compulsory property factoring could be enacted through policy or legislation. RICS said it is not opposed to this suggestion, however, the current property factor regime would need to be strengthened if this route is taken forward, a view that was shared by many in the chamber during the debate.

Indeed, those taking part in, or observing, the debate heard that monitoring and compliance with the property factoring regime, as brought in via the Property Factors (Scotland) Act 2011, was not as strong as it should be, considering the essential role property factors play in the daily lives of Scotland’s residents.

As well as strengthening the property factors regime through stronger entry requirements, and obligations for ethical and professional standards, we would suggest mandatory adherence to the best practice guidance as set out in the Service Charge Residential Management Code.

In responding to the Parliamentary debate, the Housing Minister committed to considering the recommendations from the working group, reviewing existing legislation, and tabling new legislation for action if required which is undoubtedly good news for tenement dwellers and the sector as a whole.