Sharing ownership, use or responsibility of common areas with a wide variety of neighbours and co-owners can be both rewarding and challenging.
When it comes to a leaking roof, graffiti in a shared space or clearing blocked drains most people will agree on the need to act to resolve an issue. As your Property Factor, we are here to help our customers wherever possible when it comes to the maintenance of your common property, with the services we provide outlined within our Terms of Service & Delivery Standards.
However, there can be subjects which affect you or the common areas of your property, where your Factor’s ability to resolve an issue can be limited.
If there are social issues, problems with private property, or if the behaviour of individuals in or around a property are causing concern, even if this relates to common areas of your property, you may require assistance from other services, not just your Factor.
There are a wide range of other organisations and service providers who are there to help homeowners and residents of shared properties, including;
Local Authorities (particularly Environmental Health Departments)
You will find below some circumstances where residents of shared properties often need assistance, but your Factor may not be the best placed organisation to help.
Hopefully this information and the organisations referred to can help if you face any of these situations where you live.
Anti-Social Behaviour, including Noisy Neighbours.
The Citizens Advice Scotland website includes information on Antisocial behaviour, which they consider to be ‘acting in a way that causes or is likely to cause alarm or distress to one or more people in another household. To be antisocial behaviour, the behaviour must be persistent’.
The website outlines various options for assistance if you are suffering as a result of antisocial behaviour, which includes requesting assistance from your local authority, who do have the ability to intervene.
The Scottish Public Services Ombudsman have produced a leaflet outlining the assistance available through your local authority – click here to read more.
Where such behaviour is being caused by a tenant, contact details for landlords can be obtained from the Landlord Registration Service. Their website is www.landlordregistrationscotland.gov.uk.
It is compulsory for all landlords to register with the local authority. Action can be taken by the Landlord Registration Service if landlords fail to follow appropriate action to combat their tenants’ behaviour.
While we may be able to write to all homeowners within a development, letters in respect of social issues, including those subjects listed below, seldom have the desired effect.
The Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 aims to protect residents from the risks and dangers of abandoned dog fouling. The Act states that it is an offence for the person in charge of a dog to leave its mess without removing it.
Both the police and authorised local council staff, usually in the Environmental Health Department, can issue a fixed penalty notice of £40 to those they identify of committing an offense under the Act.
The law requires dog owners to remove dog waste and whilst the vast majority of responsible dog owners do so, a Factor cannot enforce the payment of cleaning or remedial works to rectify damage caused against an individual.
Where we are asked to assist in removing dog fouling or other waste, charges will apply, and we can only apply these costs to the homeowners collectively, whom we act for.
Where a development includes a children’s play park, any refuse bin located therein is not typically intended for the disposal of dog waste. Again, third party charges may be incurred where we help arrange the removal of such waste.
Smoking in common areas
Since the implementation of the smoke-free legislation in 2006 many people have expressed frustration that smoking is still allowed in communal stairwells and landings of blocks of flats.
Communal landings and stairwells are, in law, not public places, as these are owned by the collective homeowners of the property. The smoking ban therefore does not extend to these areas.
While not illegal, we appreciate the negative impact second-hand smoke can cause and suggest that you discuss any concerns you may have with your local authority, as persistent acts may come under antisocial behaviour regulations.
Another concern in relation to smoking is the disposal of cigarette ends in the communal areas, both inside and out. While we can assist homeowners in the cleaning of their communal areas by instructing third party contractors, we are unable to pass the associated costs to the individuals concerned, rather this would be a communal cost, chargeable to the homeowners collectively.
Abandoned Vehicles, Commercial Vehicles, and Inconsiderate Parking
With space at a premium in all areas, parking of vehicles can cause real concerns and considerable inconvenience. Your Deed of Conditions may include rules on the parking of vehicles within your development, however, your Factor is unable to pursue individuals who do not abide by such rules.
Such matters may be resolved through polite and neighbourly discussion, however we appreciate this may not always be possible and alternatively, your local authority may be able to offer assistance, or in some cases you may wish to seek legal advice or help from the Police.
As Factor, we do not have the authority to remove private property, and if you believe a car has been abandoned, the following organisations may be able to assist you;
Abandoned vehicles can remain private property and it can be very challenging for homeowners to arrange the removal of a vehicle from your development. Different agencies and local authorities may have differing approaches to this problem, particularly where a car is on private but common property. In most cases you are likely to require the help of your local authority and the Police.
As technology develops, future subscription TV services may no longer require such equipment, however, if you would like our help in exploring the installation of a communal system, please contact us and we would be delighted to help. Where a communal dish already exists, any connection should be gained through same.
Many modern Deeds of Conditions restrict the installation of private/individual satellite dishes, in order to maintain the appearance and amenity of your development.
As your Property Factor, we do not have the authority to remove private property, including satellite dishes and you will likely require the help of your local authority or your solicitor to enforce these rules in your title deeds.
You may become aware, on occasion, of water flowing from overflow pipes on your building, and action to resolve this should be taken at the earliest opportunity by the owner of the pipe in question.
Overflow pipes are generally connected to bathroom or kitchen fixtures, a storage tank or central heating systems and can be a means of escape when one of these facilities requires repair, rather than flooding into a property.
As each overflow is private to an individual property and connected to their facilities, if you become aware of water from an overflow pipe, we would recommend immediate action is taken to notify the property that action is required.
If you are not in contact with the relevant homeowner, we may be able to forward information to them or to the homeowners of the property generally, encouraging action to be taken to check each property and resolve any issues identified.
Bulk Waste Items
It is the responsibility of all parties to dispose of their waste, including larger items such as furniture, appropriately. Regular refuse collectors typically can not uplift larger items left out with communal bins, and If you have bulk items to dispose of, please make arrangements for this yourself.
Many local authorities offer an uplift service, some doing so free of charge. As Factor, we are unable to arrange collections through the local authority on your behalf, however we can often reimburse costs incurred and apportion these collectively, subject to prior agreement.
Should you be aware of ‘fly-tipping’, this should also be reported to your local authority, Environmental Health Department, immediately, along with any information you hold pertaining to the person(s) responsible, such as car registrations or vehicle markings. Your Factor has no authority to take action against those persons responsible for fly tipping, whether they are resident within your development or not.
Again, while we can assist homeowners in the cleaning of their bin stores and other communal areas by instructing third party contractors, we are unable to pass the associated costs to the individuals concerned, rather this would be a communal cost, chargeable to all homeowners sharing the space.
Graffiti vandalism can be considered an act of criminal damage and should be reported to the police at the earliest opportunity.
In some instances, your local authority may remove graffiti from your property, however this is dependent on the area and the graffiti in question, enquiries should be made with your local Environmental Health Department directly.
While your Factor may be able to assist homeowners in the repairs or cleaning required as the result of graffiti vandalism, by instructing third party contractors, costs incurred are then charged to the homeowners collectively.
Local Authorities have a duty to take steps in trying to keep their relevant areas free from vermin, where practicable. More guidance is available here.
Should you discover an outbreak of vermin in or around your property, it may be worthwhile contacting the Environmental Health Department of your local authority initially, who may be able to address the issue.
If they are unable to assist you, a Factor may be able to instruct pest control contractors on behalf of the collective homeowners to investigate and try to address issues affecting your common property.
Storage of Personal items in Common Stairwell
Storing personal property in common areas can cause inconvenience to other residents, affect the decoration and flooring but may also pose a fire hazard, risk injury to a third party or simply be vulnerable to theft or damage.
All homeowners are responsible for their communal areas, and if items are being stored in common areas, you may wish to speak directly to the owner of the items in question. Alternatively, you may wish to seek advice from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, and their contact details can be found on the following leaflet – SFRS Common Stairs Leaflet.