Councillors call for changes to help home owners

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Councillors are demanding changes to the way shared property owners are billed for improvements to their properties.

The SNP administration wants to bring forward a phased package of measures to ease the pressures on vulnerable groups of home owners who are unable to fully fund their share of improvement works.

The issue arose recently after residents in flats in High Street, Bonnybridge, some of whom are pensioners, said they could not afford bills of up to £15,000 for roofing and roughcasting the Falkirk Council is carrying out on its housing stock.

The residents are liable for costs of improvements under agreements in their missives for shared properties like flats, and face court action if they don’t pay.

Councillors say that, despite the fact the council produces a three-year rolling programme, there are examples of owners being notified that they face crippling bills only weeks before work is due to commence, leaving them little time for exploring all options.

As well as seeking a full review of the Schedule of Assistance, the SNP has also asked council officers to re-introduce and extend the initiative they brought to the table in 2006 for a deferred payment scheme.

SNP spokesperson Councillor Gordon Hughes said: “It is in the interests of both council tenants and owners for there to be maximum consultation and a clear timetable that allows for all options being considered before a contract is entered into.”

“We want to see owners being involved in the preparation much earlier than is currently the case. The law states all involved, including private owners, should have the opportunity to seek advice yet there is often to little or even no time to seek that advice.

“It is obvious that discussing the fact a programme of improvement will happen in two to three years rather than two to three weeks, or even months, has to benefit those who are facing the massive bills with no ability to pay.”

In 2006 the residents of Falkirk’s multi-storey flats faced massive bills for upgrading works. The council offered the option of entering into an agreement to defer the value of the improvements to the future sale of the property. The SNP want that initiative reintroduced and extended to meet the needs of other elderly people.

Mr Hughes added: “There is no doubt that many elderly residents find themselves in a very stressful position due to no other reason than not being able to meet the demands for settlement made by the council.

“We are determined to act to seek to assist these groups and have taken the first step in addressing this concerning position.”