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Final debate on Tenements Bill

16/09/2004

The final debate on the Tenements Bill which aims to end stalemates between neighbours over repairs takes place in the Parliament today.

Before the debate began, Deputy Communities Minister Mary Mulligan said it was vital that the 1.4 million Scots living in flats were given the powers to maintain their properties without being vetoed by neighbours.

She added:

"The vast majority of owners take pride in their properties. They want to maintain the common areas, such as the stair and the roof, and keep them in a safe, working order.

"The changes we are making will make sure that basic repair and maintenance work can be carried out - even if a minority in a tenement property do not want to co-operate or pay for their share of the work.

"At the moment, all owners in a tenement must agree before repairs can be carried out, unless their title deeds say otherwise. This means that a minority who refuse to co-operate can scupper vital maintenance work.

"The Tenements Bill will create a fairer system for repair work and will mean that neighbour disputes can be resolved more quickly and fairly. This is a huge step forward for responsible owners. Approval by the Parliament today will be a significant step forward in our drive to modernise and improve property and property law in Scotland."

A tenement will not only include typical tenement flats but also modern flat developments, high-rise tower blocks and villas which have been converted into two or more flats. It applies to commercial as well as residential properties.

Under the existing system, the conditions of management and maintenance of tenement buildings are usually set out in the title deeds of the property.

Where this is not the case, a default common law has been developed by the courts to fill the gap.

In practice, this has meant that unanimity is required for any repair or maintenance work on shared parts of the property, sometimes resulting in repair work on the entire property being delayed or even thwarted by a single resident.

The main purpose of the Tenements Bill is to replace the old-fashioned common law with modern rules which clarify who owns which part of a tenement if the title deeds in the tenement do not make that clear.

It aims to create a more practical system of shared responsibility for maintenance of tenement buildings and to introduce a statutory system of management of tenements, where these are not set out in the title deeds.

This Bill is the third in a series of laws to modernise and improve Scotland's home-ownership legislation. If enacted, it is expected to come into force on November 28 at the same time as the Abolition of Feudal Tenure etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and the Title Conditions (Scotland) Act 2003.