Under One Roof

Annie Flint and John Gilbert, along with Duich McKay and others, have been preparing articles and illustrations for Under One Roof, a website dedicated to providing help to owners who live in shared properties. It’s a development of The Tenement Handbook that we wrote nearly 25 years ago.

Scotland has over half a million flats, most in the form of tenements or where the common fabric of the building is shared amongst a number of owners. In the West of Scotland, the management of such properties has traditionally been carried out by factors acting on behalf of owners or landlords. In Edinburgh, the Council was predominantly used to issue section notices to facilitate the repair of tenements, although this has now stopped.

Owners of most tenement flats do try to carry out essential repairs, although they are usually of a short term nature and agreement with all owners to finance any repair is fraught with difficulties. Increasingly, more flats are simply not repaired because of the failure to gain agreement, afford the repairs or have the work carried out under a section notice.

There are also a lot more private landlords, so getting the details of all the owners in a tenement and getting them around a table to discuss maintenance is increasingly more difficult.

The biggest problem is people not speaking or knowing their neighbours. It’s very difficult to get agreement to carry out even the most basic repairs or maintenance such as gutter cleaning and painting. Often new owners do not know what their responsibilities are when it comes to tenement maintenance.

The Under One Roof website is published under the auspices of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) and has attracted funding from nearly all Scottish local authorities as well as Historic Environment Scotland and others. We’ve tried to make it easy to navigate and have tried to avoid making it too technical, but it does go into the main issues and problems that owners need to know about in managing and maintaining their tenement (or four in a block!)

Given there is a huge range of building types and thus problems, we have tried to concentrate on what matters most. No doubt people will have their own views on the website and their own experience of defects and problems. I’m always interested to hear about them and John Gilbert Architects continues to carry out tenement repair and maintenance work, particularly on listed buildings.

The website is officially launched in late September – in the meantime, have a look at it – Under One Roof

John Gilbert