The inaugural meeting of the Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance took place in March 2018. This was a cross-party initiative in response to a debate in the Scottish Parliament in January 2018 on the maintenance of tenement communal property and the challenges of getting common repairs carried out. There had been a number of initiatives before then including the launch of the Under One Roof website as part of the RIAS Festival of Architecture 2016.  In June 2019 the Working Group on Maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property published the Final Recommendations Report. The key recommendations of that are the interlinked proposed mandatory owners’ associations, mandatory building reserve funds and mandatory building inspections every five years.

While the word ‘tenement’ conjures up images of the Victorian tenements of Scottish cities, a tenement is defined in the Tenements (Scotland) Act 2004 as ‘a building or part of a building which comprises at least two related flats which are, or are designed to be, in separate ownership and are divided from each other horizontally.’   A tenement can include both commercial and residential properties, and the ownership can be complex; eg owner occupiers, social landlords, private landlords etc.  As landlords this is very much a hot topic to keep an eye on as changes to legislation are very much going to change the way tenements are maintained and managed.

Over the last few years representatives from the RIAS Conservation Committee have been involved with the Parliamentary cross-party initiative, the current working group (from October 2022) and the sub-groups set up to contribute to its deliberations.  In particular, Jocelyn Cunliffe, Jo Parry-Geddes and Joanne McLelland have attended the sub-group meetings about the form of Five Yearly Inspections, which have also discussed building passports and home reports.  Jo Parry-Geddes has been presenting with the Under One Roof team who are working with local authorities, city heritage trusts, conservation area regeneration scheme (CARS) projects and others to tell staff about the importance of tenement maintenance and the information within the website www.underoneroof.scot.

The Scottish Law Commission has provided a Tenement law: compulsory owners’ associations project timetable update; they wrote: ‘we had hoped to publish a Discussion Paper in autumn this year. We have taken the decision to delay publication of the paper and are now looking to make it available for public consultation in spring 2024.’  Further information on the project can be found on the project page on the SLC’s website: https://www.scotlawcom.gov.uk/law-reform/law-reform-projects/tenement-law-compulsory-owners-associations/.  The Built Environment Forum Scotland (BEFS) has a lot of information about tenement maintenance, the working groups and overall progress on its website: https://www.befs.org.uk/policy-topics/buildings-maintenance-2/

The RIAS Conservation Committee is keen to help raise awareness of the likely upcoming legislation so that it does not come as a surprise to owners and residents of tenement properties. We think a public relations campaign is required, together with case studies. We would welcome accounts from you as landlords of how your building manages common repairs, including regular maintenance – do you have an owners’ association, do you have a factor, have you had a condition report carried out, do you have a bank account and have you had work carried out either successfully or unsuccessfully?  Another objective is to get pilot projects going on a voluntary basis, ahead of the mandatory owners’ associations, building reserve funds and building inspections every five years, to demonstrate the benefits of the proposals.  If you would like to get in touch and provide us with more information please contact jo@millarchitects.co.uk.