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Landlord repairs responsibilities in common areas

This section looks at what to do if you live in a tenement or other shared building and need to deal with an uncooperative landlord who won't take their repairing responsibilties seriously. You may be able to get help from the council or a mediator, or you may decide to take the matter to court.

Landlords have legal obligations to repair common areas of their property. If any of the owners refuse to fulfil the repairing obligations set out in their title deeds or in the tenement management scheme (TMS), there are several things you can do to solve the dispute. Your solicitor will be able to help you with legal action, or you can contact an adviser at a Citizens Advice for free advice and information.

Can the council help?

If you need to carry out essential repairs to the building and one or more of the owners is being difficult, you can apply to the council to help you. If the council believes that your building will become dangerous if the repairs aren't carried out, they can send all the owners a statutory notice, ordering you to arrange for the work to be done within a certain time limit.

If you don't or can't get the work done within the deadline, the council itself will arrange for the work to be done and will then charge you for it. This may save you some hassle, but it will mean that you'll no longer be able to make decisions about the repair work. In addition, it's likely to be more cost effective to arrange the work yourself.

Under the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006, statutory repair notices and orders will be replaced by a new system of 'work notices'.

Can a solicitor help?

If any owner in your building is ignoring their responsibilities or refusing to pay their share of maintenance and repairs expenses, you should ask your solicitor to write to them, pointing out their duties under the provisions of their title deeds or the tenement management scheme (TMS). This may be enough to solve the problem.

Bear in mind that you will need to pay your solicitor a fee to write the letter.

Find out more about getting a solicitor.

Can I take the owner to court?

If the letter from your solicitor doesn't help, you may have the option of taking the uncooperative owner to the sheriff court. However, bear in mind that will take some time, and may also be expensive - you can find out more about court costs. You may also be able to get help through the civil legal aid system. If you win your case, the uncooperative owner will become liable for your court costs.

The sheriff will look at the information in your title deeds, and at the rules in the TMS. If the dispute relates to a scheme decision, the sheriff will take into account whether:

  • the decision was made properly (for example, was everybody told about the vote?)
  • the decision wasn't in the best interests of all the owners
  • the decision was particularly unfair to one or more owners.

Speak to your solicitor before taking any action - they will be able to tell you whether it's worth taking the case to court and give you an estimate of the costs involved. If you don't have a solicitor (or can't get one), you might be able to represent yourself in court. You can get more information from the sheriff clerk's office in your local sheriff court.

Is there an alternative to court action?

You may be able to resolve the problem out of court, through mediation - read the pages on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to find out more. Remember, ADR isn't a substitute for legal advice, so you might still want to speak to a solicitor before taking any action.

What if the other owner is the council?

If the majority of flats in your building are owned by the council and rented out to tenants, you may find it difficult to get the council to agree to maintenance or repair work, because of budget constraints. In this case, you may be able to ask the tenants to back up your request - the page on repairs in council housing has more information on what tenants can do if the council is failing to carry out repairs.

What if other owners are harassing me about repair work?

You may feel that other owners in your building are harassing you over repair work, or trying to pressurise you into getting work done that you don't think is necessary or can't afford. In this situation you may be able to get help from the council, or from a mediation scheme - read the page on dealing with antisocial behaviour to find out more.

Scotland map Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.
This content applies to Scotland only.
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The important points

  • If you need to carry out essential repairs to the building and one or more of the owners is being difficult, you can apply to the council to help you.
  • If the council believes your building will become dangerous if the repairs aren't carried out, they can send a statutory notice, ordering you to arrange for the work to be done within a certain time limit.
  • If any owner in your building is ignoring their responsibilities or refusing to pay their share of expenses, then ask solicitor to write to them, pointing out their duties under their title deeds or the tenement management scheme.

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