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House repairs: statutory notices and orders
What is a statutory repair notice?
Local authorities have a number of powers to enforce improvements and repairs on privately owned property. There are different legal procedures that the local authority can use, depending on the nature of the repair required.
If you have received a statutory order or notice, it will state at the top of it which procedure is being used and under which Act. This should also be specified in any accompanying letter from the local authority.
The notice may refer to the following Acts:
- The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006
- The Building (Scotland) Act 2003
- The Environmental Protection Act 1990
- Local byelaws.
As well as the powers described in this item, some local authorities have powers under local bye-laws to deal with dangerous buildings and essential repairs. If a client has been served with a notice under a local bye-law, you will need to check with the local authority to find out what will happen next and how to appeal.
What work can I be forced to carry out?
A local authority can force owners of property to:-
- carry out building repairs; or
- keep common stairs, passageways and courts clean and decorated; or
- remove nuisances such as health or safety hazards; or
- improve houses which are sub-standard, that is, below a minimum standard set by the government; or
- comply with the repairing standard if it applies.
The local authority can also undertake work itself in some circumstances, for example to carry out emergency work to make a building safe, if necessary by evacuating and demolishing it.
You will receive a work notice if a house you own is identified by the local authority as being sub-standard, because it is below the tolerable standard, in serious disrepair, or in need of repair and likely to deteriorate rapidly and cause damage to other properties if nothing is done to repair it.
The work notice will require you to undertake repairs to bring the property up to the tolerable standard.
The definition of the tolerable standard requires that a house should:-
- be structurally stable
- be substantially free from rising or penetrating damp
- have satisfactory provision for natural and artificial lighting, for ventilation and for heating
- have satisfactory thermal insulation
- have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water available within the house
- have a sink provided with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water within the house
- have a WC or waterless closet available for the exclusive use of the occupants of the house and suitably located within the house
- have a fixed bath or shower provided with a satisfactory supply of both hot and cold water and satisfactorily located within the house
- have satisfactory facilities for the cooking of food within the house
- in the case of a house having an electricity supply, it has an adequate and safe supply of electricity including electrical wiring but excluding equipment and appliances
- have satisfactory access to all external doors and outbuildings
- have an effective system for drainage and disposal of foul and surface water.
The work notice will state the following:
- the reason for the work
- details of the work to be carried out
- any standard to be met on completion
- the period within the work must be completed which must be at least 21 days from the date of the notice.
You are entitled to assistance from your local authority under the scheme of assistance if you have been served with a work notice, but this can be in the form of information, advice or practical assistance. Local authority's have discretion over whether to provide financial assistance. You should check your local authority's scheme of assistance to see whether you are eligible to apply for financial assistance.
You can appeal against a work notice within 21 days of the notice being served. Appeals are heard in the sheriff court.
If you have been served a work notice, and you wish to appeal, you should seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. There will be costs involved in appealing.
If your appeal is unsuccessful, and you do not carry out the work within the specified timescale, the local authority can carry out the work itself and recover the cost from you.
If a building has defects which are likely to cause significant deterioration of the building, the local authority has powers to deal with it under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. The local authority can serve a defective building notice requiring you, as the owner, to rectify the specified defects and bring the building into a reasonable state of repair considering its age, type and location.
You cannot apply to the local authority for a defective building notice to be served on a property. However, you may contact the local authority to express your concern about a building in your area.
Examples of the kind of defects which can be dealt with by a defective building notice are:-
- leaking roofs
- defective stonework
- broken gutters and down pipes
- dry/wet rot or woodworm
- blocked drains and sewers
- plasterwork in common areas.
If you have received a defective building notice, it will set out certain steps which the local authority requires you to take in order to rectify the defects. It will also set out a date by which the work must be started and a date by which the work must be finished. The work may require you to apply for a building warrant and to obtain a completion certificate.
If there is a mistake on the notice, you should contact your local authority immediately.
If you do not think the work is required, you can appeal a defective building notice in the sheriff court within 21 days of receiving it. The sheriff may quash the notice. If you wish to appeal, you should seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. There will be costs involved in appealing.
If you do not appeal or if your appeal is unsuccessful, and the works are not started or are not finished by the dates set out on the notice, you would be guilty of an offence. In this situation, the local authority is able to carry out the required work and recover the costs from you. The local authority has a right of entry to carry out works and it is an offence for anyone to try to prevent this.
You may be eligible for financial assistance for the repairs under your local authority's scheme of assistance, although there is no statutory entitlement.
Dangerous Building Notices under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003
If a local authority thinks that a building is dangerous to people in or about it, to the public generally or to adjacent buildings or places, then the local authority has a duty to deal with it under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003.
The local authority can:-
- serve a dangerous building notice on the owners specifying the works which are needed; or
- carry out emergency works to remove the danger (including shoring up the building or demolishing it if necessary); or
- evacuate the building.
Dangerous building notices are likely to be used where there are defects such as:-
- chimney stacks which are about to fall down
- loose stonework
- bulging walls
- sinking foundations
- rotten beams
- severe fire-damage
- impact-damage from vehicles or explosions
- serious structural problems.
If you are concerned about the safety of a building in your area, you should contact your local authority and ask to speak to the relevant department.
If you have received a dangerous building notice for a property you own, you should contact your local authority immediately. If demolition work is pending, you may be able to stop this temporarily by applying to the sheriff for an interim interdict. You can also appeal a notice to the sheriff within 21 days of receiving it. If you wish to appeal, you should seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. There will be costs involved in appealing.
If you do not start the works specified in a dangerous building notice or complete them by the specified dates, you would be guilty of an offence. The local authority can do the work and recover. The local authority has a right of entry to carry out works and it is an offence for anyone to obstruct access.
If there is an emergency the local authority can carry out essential work without notifying you first, and recover the costs from you later.
If it is necessary to remove you or your tenants from the building because it is dangerous, the local authority can serve a notice of removal specifying the time within which you/they must leave. If you/they do not leave within that time the local authority can apply to court for a warrant for ejection.
People who receive a dangerous building notice are not statutorily entitled to financial assistance, but you should check whether you are entitled to apply for help under the local authority’s scheme of assistance.
Local authorities can:-
enforce the cleaning of common stairs and passageways and back-courts in blocks of flats; and
create bye-laws to set out the responsibilities of occupiers to keep common areas clean. Anyone who does not abide by the bye-laws can then be fined; and
- enforce the painting of common stairs and passageways in blocks of flats.
Notices will specify the works needed and state a time within which they must be done.
If the notice is about cleaning or removing rubbish and this is not done within the time stated, the local authority can do the work and may be able to charge for it. If the notice is about painting and this is not done within the time stated the local authority can do the work and charge the owner or occupier with the costs.
Where there are several people responsible for the building, for example where works are to common areas in a tenement, several owners may be liable for the cost.
Local authorities have a duty to investigate anything which is considered to be a statutory nuisance and can require owners of property to deal with anything which is considered to be a nuisance or likely to be damaging to health.
You may receive an abatement notice, requiring you to:-
- stop the nuisance; and/or
- carry out whatever work the local authority thinks is necessary to stop the nuisance recurring.
The notice should provide details of the work that must be done, and give a time limit for the completion of the work.
Examples of nuisances are:-
- windows which do not open properly
- leaking roofs
- burst pipes
- electrical wiring systems which are likely to cause fire or give shocks
- blocked waste-pipes
- defective sanitary fittings (such as WC, wash-basin)
- loose floor boards
- ceilings in danger of collapse
- dangerous substances stored in or near a house (for example chemicals, petrol-cans)
- dirt or rubbish in common stairs or back-courts
- cockroach or other insect infestation.
If you are affected by a statutory nuisance as a tenant or neighbour, you should negotiate with the owner of the property in the first instance. If this does not stop the nuisance, you should contact your local authority and ask them to serve the owner with an abatement notice.
If you have been served with an abatement notice, you can appeal to the sheriff court within 21 days of receiving the notice. In most cases, lodging an appeal does not stop the person's duty to carry out the work specified in the abatement notice. (In some limited circumstances, an abatement notice may be suspended until the appeal has been heard.) This means that the person will be committing a criminal offence if s/he does not do the work required.
If the person responsible does not comply with the abatement notice by the date specified, and the statutory nuisance still exists or is likely to recur, the local authority:-
- can carry out the work itself. If it does so, it can recover the costs of the repairs and expenses from the person responsible for the nuisance; and/or
- may report the person responsible for the nuisance to the Procurator Fiscal for prosecution for non-compliance. They may be prosecuted and fined.
You may be eligible for financial assistance to repair statutory nuisances. You should check with your local authority.
Other sources of assistance
Care and Repair
Care and Repair projects operate in most local authority areas and offer independent advice and assistance about repairs and improvements to homeowners, private tenants and crofters who are over 60 or have a disability. Information about local Care and Repair projects can be obtained from the local authority or by contacting the Care and Repair Forum Scotland at:-
Care and Repair Scotland
135 Buchanan Street
Tel: 0141 221 9879
Fax: 0141 221 9885
Under One Roof
Under one Roof is a website created by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and other organisations, to provide information and advice about common repairs. The website provides technical information on the architectural aspects of different building styles, and the repairs commonly needed to these areas. The website can be accessed at www.underoneroof.scot.