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News & opinion

29 MAY 2018

Tenement maintenance one step closer for Scotland

Action on compulsory tenement maintenance in Scotland took a closer step last week as parliament agreed, following a vote on an opposition debate, to review existing legislation and consider the implementation of mandatory tenement health checks.

Tenement properties make up a quarter of all domestic dwellings, 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, RICS – with agreement from parliament and stakeholders alike - is proposing measures to encourage, and if necessary compel, common owners to have building condition surveys undertaken every five years.

The Scottish Conservatives used their opposition debate to raise the issue of mandatory tenement surveys and property factors, with the Shadow Housing Minister, Graham Simpson MSP, backing RICS’ policy proposal. This latest, and welcomed, parliamentary outcome adds further momentum to a cause, which RICS kickstarted in November 2017 at a parliamentary reception, and a debate on the issue in January following a motion on the issue lodged by SNP MSP Ben Macpherson – a motion that 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.

Reassuringly, the debate didn’t lament the problems, but centred around finding solutions, as outlined in the motion and subsequent amendment by the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart MSP.

During this debate, all political parties recognised the work undertaken by stakeholders – particularly the working group on tenement scheme property, which RICS and the Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) provide secretariat. There were also numerous references to RICS and the Tenement Health Check policy proposal from MSPs.

Factoring in property factoring

The debate also covered whether compulsory property factoring could be enacted through policy or legislation.

RICS is not opposed to this suggestion. However, the current property factor regime (register, Code of Conduct and redress) 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.

Next steps

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.