Shared Repairs first started out as a new service from the City of Edinburgh Council in the middle of 2015. It took around 18 months to bed in the new process and the team in their new roles and we were fully up and running in 2017 – not that long ago!
We quickly realised that owners in Edinburgh, on the whole, didn’t want the Council to take control of their repairs in tenements. As a result, our service’s business plan forecasts and assumptions weren’t accurate. We had predicted, given the busy repairs service that existed before us, that tenement owners would want the Council to step in, taking the hassle away by allowing the Council to enforce repairs and then charge out the costs.
However, we’ve learned that owners want to take matters into their own hands, keeping control of the works, costs and decisions. There are of course exceptions to this when we have to step in, but only in 10% of cases.
We found out that the will was there, but that lead owners around the city who were arranging the repairs found it so difficult to engage with their fellow owners — who were not always neighbours. They could be landlords or housing associations or even empty flats with owners who were difficult to find.
Missing Share Service
So, we did our best to introduce new ways to help owners overcome the barriers that often hold up shared repair projects. This includes our Missing Share Service which helps owners get everyone to pay their share of a repair, our facilitation service to help owners work together on repairs and a service which releases an owner’s details when they can’t be contacted. We also have a service for repair projects where the Council owns flats in a block with private owners. In lots of cases this still wasn’t enough, so the challenge of how to get people to repair their tenements and blocks of flats was still very much there. The legislation is not on our side, either. Although the Tenement (Scotland) Act 2004 is very powerful for owners, there is an obligation — but no compulsion — on owners to repair common areas of their shared blocks.
That’s when we thought that a technical solution might help owners. It might also create the nudge that some other owners need. But we had no idea how to go about getting this solution or what it should look like. A colleague mentioned the CivTech programme from the Scottish Government and, 18 months later, we have a fantastic solution!
The Novoville Shared Repairs App
The App is totally unique, not just a platform for owners to discuss and make decisions — it goes much further by creating photographic repair reports, taking votes, working out cost shares, notifying ‘scheme’ decisions, getting quotes from traders and providing a tenement bank account for collecting funds and paying contractors.
This App is another tool for owners that we are proud to endorse through our Shared Repairs Service to owners in Edinburgh.
by Jackie Timmons
Shared Repairs Manager, The City of Edinburgh Council