New proposals for maintaining private buildings in Edinburgh

Options for a brand new property conservation service are to be considered next week, with homeowners and other interested parties given the chance to shape how the new service will work.

The Council is planning a complete overhaul of how it deals with the issuing of statutory notices following serious allegations about how the system has worked in recent years.

The proposed approach is based more on helping and encouraging owners to take responsibility for their own repairs, while keeping the Council's statutory powers as an option of last resort.

However, other options for consultation with the public include:

  • Providing or contracting a property factoring service, as is common in other cities
  • Assisting owners to develop a 'tenement management scheme'
  • Reintroducing a service like the Edinburgh Stair Partnership to support private owners in managing their own repairs
  • Carrying out inspections on buildings at risk and reporting these to owners.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, Finance and Resources Convener, said: "We must have a clear break with the past to reassure the public that the Council has cleaned up its act. While we understand the benefits that the previous system, when working properly, had to some property owners, the circumstances in which the Council intervenes on maintaining private properties needs to be much more under control.

"Ultimately the responsibility for keep a building safe lies with the owner. But we all have a shared interest in the fabric of our city being safe and sound. We will always take steps to protect the public from dangerous buildings, but what we want to find out from the public is what they think about the extent of our involvement in other situations."

Cllr Rankin added: "We recognise the frustrations that property owners can experience when trying to agree works with their neighbours and in getting these paid for. However, we need to find a different way forward, that does not create the same risks for either the Council or the people of Edinburgh."

The two main elements of the consultation will be an open survey to property owners, tenants and the public generally, as well as discussions with local professional and commercial organisations involved in the property market. It's expected that the new service would be up and running in Spring 2013.

The proposals are to be considered at the Council's Policy and Strategy committee on Tuesday 7 August. Further publicity will follow assuming the report is approved.

A separate report to the same committee provides an update on the work done to address various concerns being investigated by the Council.

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