Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance
In Scotland, there are around 895,000 properties legally defined as tenements. A tenement is any building or property that has been divided horizontally. Around a third of tenement flats were built prior to 1919, another third between 1919-1982, and the final third after 1982. Many tenement flats are in a state of critical disrepair, particularly those built before 1919. More information on the current understanding of building condition can be found here.
The Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance
The Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance (the Group) has been meeting since March 2018 with the purpose of establishing solutions to aid, assist and compel owners of tenement properties to maintain their buildings.
History of the Group and its activities (most recent first)
The Group agreed to form sub-groups to further develop strands of work, as had originally occurred in 2019.
Suggested groupings include: Development Management Scheme for new buildings; Duty to Maintain Standards; Other Changes to Tenement Management Scheme and Act, and Debt recovery. This is in addition to the group pursuing actions in relation to the 5 yearly surveys.
The Diffley report was released. This was a report commissioned to allow the Scottish Government to make a determination on the required level(s) of monetary commitment from tenants/landlords in relation to Building Reserve Funds (BRF).
BEFS, Under One Roof, any many within the Group were also represented on a Tenements Short Life Working Group – Energy Efficiency and Zero Emissions Heating, invited by Patrick Harvie as Minister, and Chaired by Lori McElroy. This group met throughout 2022 and produced a report which may be finalised in 2023.
All meeting papers for the SPWG on Tenement Maintenance (the Group) can be found at the foot of this page.
If you would like to be part of the Scottish Parliamentary group – looking at the strategic future of tenement legislation and action in Scotland, please contact BEFS Director. We thank all current and previous members of the group for their knowledge and engagement. If you are interested in maintaining your tenement and require further information, please contact Under One Roof.
The Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance was reconvened by Graham Simpson MSP in 2022. BEFS and Under One Roof provide the secretariat.
Re-Formation of the group also acknowledged a changing Parliamentary context including: Declaration of a Climate Emergency – April 2019; Infrastructure Commission Recommendations – January 2020 (Homes as part of infrastructure); Heat in Buildings Strategy – October 2021; Housing to 2040 – March 2021; National Planning Framework (NPF4) – adopted February 2023.
These related policies are only some of those which positive action in relation to tenement maintenance can directly support. Our housing stock is now directly listed as part of our infrastructure, and interventions around tenements will be essential to meeting Heat in Buildings targets.
Complex polices demand complex actions, and we’ve been seeing significant work take place across building standards, heat in buildings teams, and wider housing legislation.
In early 2022 BEFS also briefed Patrick Harvie in his role as Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights.
In the summer of 2022 Why Buildings Collapse was shown on the BBC, this documentary (based on a case in Florida, USA) contained comment on Scotland’s situation from Ailsa Macfarlane (BEFS Director) and Professor Douglas Robertson (author of several reports linked below).
A summary mapping current activity against the Scottish Government Workplan was produced in October 2022 – this is to be updated in due course.
After the Scottish Parliamentary Elections in May 2021, BEFS wrote to Shona Robison MSP in her capacity as Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government.
As an action within the Scottish Government workplan, the Scottish Law Commission received a reference from the Scottish Government in January 2022 to make recommendations for legislative reform with regard to establishing compulsory owners’ associations in tenement properties.
The Scottish Law Commission have been clear that the parcel of work they are engaged in, specifically around establishing compulsory owners’ associations, will only be effective (should legislation form and pass) if the other aspects of the recommendations around sinking funds, and 5 yearly inspections are also in place.
Research was also commissioned in relation to repair costs and building reserve funds, this was awarded in April 2021 and the Diffley partnership reported as requested.
Activity was delayed or truncated in the years 2020 and 2021 due to the Covid pandemic.
The Scottish Government’s Tenement Condition: Workplan for 2020 was published in February 2020 (and updated in March 2021) and can be found here.
The group published interim recommendations in January 2019 with three interrelated recommendations, each being necessary to achieve culture change and long-term benefits for owners and properties. Full details of the recommendations are in these documents:
These interim recommendations were put out for consultation until the end of February 2019 and you can find a summary of responses here.
In May 2019 the Group produced final recommendations for mandatory Owners Associations, Building Reserve Funds and Building Surveys. This series of recommendations was responded to by the Scottish Government later in 2019, and a Workplan for actions from the Scottish Government was formed.
In tandem with the above, BEFS and RICS, with additional financial support from the Scottish Government, commissioned a report from Professor Douglas Robertson. This paper examines: the current arrangements for ensuring that common repairs are undertaken within flatted property in Scotland, and asks if these arrangements are effective? Full Report.
The Scottish Parliament agreed the following motion from Kevin Stewart, Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning on the 26th June 2019:
That the Parliament appreciates the work of the Working Group on Maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property and the publication of its Final Recommendations Report; acknowledges that the group had cross-party representation and has gathered views from across the Parliament and that of the housing sector; notes that the report acknowledges the important action that has already been taken to improve the condition of Scottish tenements; recognises the challenges that must be met to ensure that Scotland’s housing stock can continue to provide safe and sustainable homes for the future, and believes that the group’s recommendations merit serious and careful consideration.
The full transcript of the preceding debate is available here in which the Minister committed to a substantive response from the Scottish Government to the working group’s recommendations in the autumn of 2019.
The conference examined the Final Report of Recommendations which the working group propose will enhance the ability of tenement owners to work collectively encouraging and enabling effective maintenance and repair of their properties. This would require mandatory:
- Owners Associations
- Building Reserve Funds
- 5 Yearly Building Surveys
January 2018 – the Scottish Parliament debated Ben MacPherson MSP’s motion on Maintenance of Tenement Communal Property, which included the proposal for a cross party working group on the subject.
The working group was convened by Ben Macpherson MSP in March 2018. The first meeting saw cross party attendance with representatives from property management, property law, chartered surveying and architecture with BEFS and the RICS providing the secretariat function. The aims are long term, provisionally making recommendations at the end of this parliament.
In May 2018, the issue of tenement maintenance was progressed in a Scottish Parliament debate on a motion on the inadequacy of existing legislation in dealing with the condition of Scotland’s tenement housing stock and a vote in favour of a review of the relevant legislation.
On 27th August 2018 David Stewart of the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations organised a visit to the offices of Dunedin Canmore for members of the working group. This included a short tour of tenements undergoing repairs in Gorgie and Tollcross in Edinburgh and learning about the challenges housing associations face in handling maintenance in tenements where they are not the majority owner. The presentation from Stuart Pendreich of Dunedin Canmore is available here. The visit provided very useful evidence for the working group.
In November 2017, Graham Simpson MSP hosted a parliamentary reception regarding RICS tenement health check proposals.
The Scottish Government published the following response on 20th December 2019:
1. We agree that action is needed to improve the condition of our tenements to ensure that our buildings can provide good quality, safe and sustainable homes in the future.
2. Any change needs to be delivered in a way that engages people, and the burden of increased costs must not fall on those least able to pay. We must not address poor housing condition at the cost of pricing out some of the most vulnerable in society from their homes.
3. The maintenance of common property is an important issue and owners in tenements, both homeowners and landlords, need to fully accept their shared responsibilities for maintaining their property. It is important that where there are powers under existing legislation, these are being used appropriately.
4. We will engage with the Scottish Law Commission on the three recommendations, with a view to referring these matters to the Scottish Law Commission to carry out a law reform project and provide a report with recommendations and a draft Bill that would implement the reforms. We will also include ongoing fire safety and energy efficiency considerations as part of this engagement.
5. The Report’s recommendations involve a fundamental change to property rights for owners in tenements, so we need to ensure that what we put in place works. Further research is necessary to determine how elements of the recommendations can be made to work in practice.
6. The Report’s aspiration for an Act of Parliament in 2025 is ambitious, and may not be achievable. The Scottish Law Commission is already committed to a full Programme of work and we need to take account of their existing priorities and resources, and also the processes required for a law reform project.
7. Whilst legislation is being considered and in development, we will seek to support voluntary and incremental change, including:
- commissioning research to determine the proportion, geography, and tenure mix of relevant buildings, and how this may affect the viability and establishment of owners’ associations;
- supporting development of good practice to encourage owners to set up their own associations, including considerations on condition reports;
- the development of a form for a tenement condition report and a framework for recognised professionals to complete it;
- the development of proposals for a publically accessible online platform to support access to tenement condition reports, so that people are able to complete them and share them on a voluntary basis and to facilitate a mandatory system;
- for tenement condition to be included as part of ongoing considerations on improvements to Home Reports;
- convening a forum of finance professionals to advise on a building reserve fund, initially available on a voluntary basis;
- commissioning research to evaluate what factors affect repair costs and how to set a level of expected contribution for a building reserve fund; and
- consideration of what an affordable, viable compulsory factoring service might look like, and engage with property factors on this;
8. Members of the Working Group are commended for their efforts and the production of their Report. This response recognises the importance of their recommendations and commits this Government to take action to deliver the changes needed to support owners and ensure common property is protected and preserved for the benefit of future generations. A programme for the actions identified above will be developed and published in the New Year.
PREVIOUS MEMBERS INCL:
- Minutes of Meeting 1 – Thursday 22 March 2018
- Minutes of Meeting 2 – Thursday 31 May 2018
- Minutes of Meeting 3 – Thursday 13 September 2018
- Minutes of Meeting 4 – Thursday 15 November 2018
- Minutes of Meeting 5 – Thursday 14 March 2019
- Minutes of Meeting 6 – Thursday 2 May 2019
- Minutes of Meeting 7 – Wednesday 26 October 2022
- Minutes of Meeting 8 – Tuesday 28 February 2023
New members recommended by those involved, sometimes “new members” are merely those who are new in role within organisations.
Word ‘Member’ implies “those actively involved” – there is no limitation or particular outline for the organisations and individuals involved. Anyone can recommend Members by contacting the secretariat and those suggested will receive an invitation for the next meeting.
However, this is a group for those wishing to drive forward policy and legislative change. We are aware, and deeply sympathetic to the many individual cases and challenges which owners (and tenants) can face – but this is not the most useful forum for discussion of individual cases. We tend to have a body of professionals as Members, representing or informed by a wide range of practices and experience across the built environment. New Members committed to the matter at hand and able to provide their strategic expertise across the range of relevant topics are welcome and encouraged, this is a group which needs continued intake of energy and knowledge to be effective.