In our last article we introduced the problems with the repair and maintenance of Scotland’s traditional sandstone tenements and how the Scottish Government is tackling the problem. The Scottish Parliamentary Working Group on Tenement Maintenance, which has been set up to tackle the issues, have suggested that Property Factors could influence and assist with any plans or regulations that are introduced. We finished up that last article by considering how Property Factors could get involved in offering solutions put forward by the Working Group, whilst legislation is being considered. In this article, we’re going to discuss those solutions from our perspective as industry suppliers.
Each of the suggestions are taken from the Working Group on Maintenance of Tenement Scheme Property Final Recommendations Report. We are providing our opinion on how Property Factors might be able to assist with these solutions and how we, as industry suppliers, can also contribute to providing solutions.
Supporting development of good practice to encourage owners to set up their own associations, including considerations on condition reports
As much as we know this is a mammoth task that’s often filled with frustration and futile attempts, utilising the outcomes of this report and potential future Parliamentary policy as an opportunity to get people on board might not be such a bad thing.
Aside from the clear benefits for tenement owners, there are of course, benefits for property factors who encourage associations to be formed.
The development of a form for a tenement condition report and a framework for recognised professionals to complete it.
Using our expertise in the industry we would suggest that the report might include stonework, pointing, gutters, roof, garden, bin shed, fencing, external doors, secure entry systems, chimney stacks, stairwell – stairs, walls, railings and lighting.
This report would be supplied to Property Factors and also used to invite landlords and owners to do a laymen’s eye inspection in order to bring these areas into focus so damage or potential damage can be tackled. The report can also be used as an advertising campaign – leaflets or emails or local radio – to encourage landlords and owners to take action. Part of this action could be to form an association or to appoint a Property Factor.
The development of proposals for a publicly 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
The tenement condition report could easily be made available to anyone who needs to see it via an app or online portal. The app could be downloaded to any Android or Apple device and the user would sign up to access the report.
Convening a forum of finance professionals to advise on a building reserve fund, initially available on a voluntary basis
Finance professionals from Property Factoring firms could be included in this forum in order to provide their valuable input. Steps can be taken to include any building reserve fund in the accounts of their portfolio. By including this information in the accounts of customers, this would introduce the concept and provide an excuse to contact them to advise them that this has been added as part of the Parliamentary Working Group. Worded carefully, this could help to open up the conversation of repairs and maintenance work that is needed.
For non-factored buildings, this would be more tricky. However, this would be another opportunity for factors to communicate with non-factored buildings.
Commissioning research to evaluate what factors affect repair costs and how to set a level of expected contribution for a building reserve fund
This is a crucial area where property factors would be able to provide a level of expertise and information. Property Factors are in an ideal position to provide contribution levels and details on the challenges that they face when allocating work and budgets. They would also be able to get involved with the initiative by being a middleman, reaching out to customers and clients to ask them what they would be willing to pay. Property Factors are a vital voice in this aspect of the work.
Consideration of what an affordable, viable compulsory factoring service might look like, and engage with property factors on this
We don’t really need to say much here. So we’ll finish by saying that Property Factors are an integral part of the solution to saving Scotland’s traditional sandstone and granite tenements. They are a wealth of knowledge and information and they can also utilise this opportunity to raise their own profile. Not allowing tenements to crumble is a must and we have to communicate the benefits more openly and positively among tenants, homeowners and landlords.
Of course, the issues of disrepair and lack of maintenance extends beyond Scotland. England, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their fair share of housing stock issues. All of which will be the result of similar problems to those experienced in Scotland. How easy it is to solve is a question that remains to be seen. With progress in Scotland being hampered by the pandemic, 2021 might be the year that we are able to move forward with saving Scotland’s tenements from further demise.
Brian Welsh is MD of CPL Software and has a wealth of experience in the Property Management Industry.
You can read the full details of the Working Group’s report here
And you can also view the Scottish Government’s response here