House repair notices
This information applies to Scotland only.
What is a repair notice
Local authorities have powers to enforce improvements and repairs on privately owned property. There are different legal procedures that a local authority can use, depending on the nature of the repair required.
If you've received a repair notice, it'll state which procedure is being used and under which act. This should also be specified in any accompanying letter from the local authority.
Types of repair notice
Local authorities can issue the following types of repair notice:
Some local authorities also have powers under local by-laws to deal with dangerous buildings and essential repairs. If you've been served with a notice under a local by-law, you'll need to check with the local authority to find out what will happen next.
What work can I be forced to carry out
A local authority can force a property owner to:
- carry out building repairs
- keep common stairways, passageways and courts clean and decorated
- remove nuisances such as health or safety hazards
- improve houses which are below a minimum standard set by the government
- 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'll receive a work notice if the local authority identifies a house you own as being below the tolerable standard, in serious disrepair or in need of repair and likely to deteriorate rapidly and damage 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 this standard requires a house to:
- be structurally stable
- be substantially free from rising or penetrating damp
- have satisfactory provision for natural and artificial lighting, ventilation and heating
- have satisfactory thermal insulation
- have an adequate piped supply of wholesome water in the house
- have a sink with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water in the house
- have a WC or waterless closet for the exclusive use of the occupants of the house and suitably located in the house
- have a fixed bath or shower with a satisfactory supply of hot and cold water and satisfactorily located in the house
- have satisfactory facilities for the cooking of food in the house
- in the case of a house with an electricity supply, have 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 when the work is completed
- the period in which the work must be completed - this must be at least 21 days from the date of the notice
You're entitled to help from your local authority under the scheme of assistance for house repairs and adaptations if you've been served with a work notice. This can be in the form of information, advice or practical help. Local authorities have discretion over whether to provide financial help. You should check your local authority's scheme of assistance to see if you're eligible to apply for financial help.
You can appeal against a work notice within 21 days of the notice being served. Appeals are heard in the sheriff court.
If you've been served a work notice and want 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 don't carry out the work in the specified time, 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. The local authority can serve a defective building notice requiring the owner to rectify the specified defects and bring the building into a reasonable state of repair considering its age, type and location.
You can't 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.
Defects which can be dealt with by a defective building notice include:
- leaking roofs
- defective stonework
- broken gutters and down pipes
- dry/wet rot or woodworm
- blocked drains and sewers
- plasterwork in common areas
If you've received a defective building notice, it will set out certain steps which the local authority requires you to take to rectify the defects. It will also set dates by which the work must be started and finished. The work may require you to apply for a building warrant and get a completion certificate.
If you think there's a mistake on the notice, you should contact your local authority immediately.
You may be eligible for financial help for the repairs under your local authority's scheme of assistance for house repairs and adaptations, but there's no statutory entitlement.
If you don't 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 want to appeal, you should seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. There will be costs involved in appealing.
If you don't appeal or your appeal is unsuccessful, and the works aren't started or finished by the dates set out in the notice, you'll be guilty of an offence. In this situation, the local authority can 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's an offence to try to stop this.
If a local authority thinks a building is dangerous to people in or around it, to the public generally or to adjacent buildings or places, the local authority has a duty to deal with it.
The local authority can:
- serve a dangerous building notice on the owners specifying the works needed
- carry out emergency works to remove the danger, including shoring up the building or demolishing it if necessary
- 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're 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've received a dangerous building notice for a property you own, you should contact the local authority immediately. If you don't start the works specified in the notice or complete them by the specified dates, you'll be guilty of an offence. The local authority can do the work itself and recover the costs from you. The local authority has a right of entry to carry out works, and it's an offence to try to stop this.
If there's an emergency, the local authority can carry out essential work without telling you first and recover the costs from you later.
If it's necessary to remove you or your tenants from the building because it's dangerous, the local authority can serve a notice of removal specifying the time within which you or they must leave. If you or they don't leave in that time, the local authority can apply to court for a warrant for ejection.
You're not statutorily entitled to financial help if you receive a dangerous building notice, but you should check whether you're entitled to apply for help under the local authority’s scheme of assistance for house repairs and adaptations.
If demolition work is pending, you may be able to stop it 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 want to appeal, you should seek advice from your local Citizens Advice Bureau. There'll be costs involved in appealing.
Local authorities have a duty to investigate anything considered a statutory nuisance and can require owners of property to deal with anything considered a nuisance or likely to be damaging to health.
You may receive an abatement notice requiring you to:
- stop the nuisance
- 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 work to be completed.
Examples of nuisances are:
- windows which don't 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 WCs and washbasins
- loose floorboards
- ceilings in danger of collapse
- dangerous substances stored in or near a house, for example chemicals or petrol cans
- dirt or rubbish in common stairways or backcourts
- cockroach or other insect infestation
If you're 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 doesn't stop the nuisance, you should contact your local authority and ask them to serve the owner with an abatement notice.
If you don't 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 and recover the costs from you
- report you to the Procurator Fiscal for non-compliance - you could be prosecuted and fined
You may be eligible for financial help to repair statutory nuisances. You should check this with your local authority.
If you've 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 won't stop your duty to carry out the work specified in the abatement notice. This means you'll be committing a criminal offence if you don't do the work required. In some limited circumstances, an abatement notice may be suspended until the appeal has been heard.
Local authorities can:
enforce the cleaning of common stairways, passageways and backcourts in blocks of flats
create by-laws to set out the responsibilities of occupiers to keep common areas clean - anyone who doesn't abide by the by-laws can be fined
- enforce the painting of common stairways and passageways in blocks of flats
Notices will specify the works needed and state a time in which they must be done.
If you've received a notice about painting, cleaning or removing rubbish and this isn't done in the time stated, the local authority can do the work and may be able to charge you for it. If several people are responsible for the building, for example in a tenement, several owners may be liable for the cost.
If it appears there's been a mistake, it's better to contact the local authority immediately to save the cost and inconvenience of a court hearing. There's no right of appeal against a stair-cleaning notice.