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Communal Stair Lighting in Edinburgh - Who’s Responsible?

Something we get asked about often is whether communal stair lighting is Edinburgh Council’s responsibility. The short answer is no - but to give you more context as well as some actionable insight into how to keep your stair lighting in working order, we’ve put together this blog post for Edinburgh flat owners. We’ll also go into Edinburgh Council’s stance of shared repairs in tenement buildings and how you can organise maintenance visits in your building.



Is Edinburgh Council responsible for stair lighting?


Edinburgh Council handled communal stair lighting in tenements where flats are owned privately until July 2016 when the service was scrapped in favour of investment into other public services. This means that unless your tenement contains flats owned by the council, the legal responsibility of keeping your communal areas safe and maintaining stair lighting falls onto those who own properties in the building.



What maintenance do my stairwell light fittings need?


As standard, most shared tenement stairwells in Edinburgh are fitted with the same model of fluorescent lights. The electricity running into these lights is normally paid for by Edinburgh Council via an unmetered supply.


These lights require regular maintenance and once one or two of these lights start to falter, it’s likely time to refit all the lights in your stairwell as these lamps have a very defined lifespan. While you may think this would cost more, this is likely not the case as this way your building will require fewer visits from electricians.

Upgrading your stairwell lighting to LEDs is also an option. This will significantly reduce their need for maintenance as well as electricity consumption. This is something EBM can price and instruct on behalf of owners.



How to organise stair lighting maintenance


Can I change the lights myself?

This is not advisable for a number of reasons. First of all, getting your hands on the light tubes can be challenging since many communal light fittings are fitted with anti-tamper screws. Moreover, trying to carry out maintenance on stairwell lighting in your tenement can be dangerous and is not as simple as changing domestic lightbulbs. This is why it’s advisable to leave your stairwell lighting maintenance to professional electricians.


Organising shared repairs

In order to carry out repairs in your building’s shared spaces, you have to get several quotes for the proposed works, have majority approval before work goes ahead and handle collecting payments for the contractors yourself. Founding something like a residents’ association can help you keep on top of organising shared repairs and maintenance.


Hiring a factoring company

Your other option is hiring a property factoring service to maintain the common stair lighting in your building. This means instructing a factoring company who, for a fixed fee, will take care to maintain your stairwell lighting. If a light goes out, you simply call your property factor and they’ll take care of the rest, organising the electrician’s visit and collecting money from everyone if the repairs fall outside your annual fixed factoring fee. Our inspectors also routinely visit and report any issues found.



Communal stair maintenance in Edinburgh


When it comes to all things stair maintenance, the approach Edinburgh Council takes is that shared areas equal shared responsibility. This means that the safety, functionality and cleanliness of your tenement’s roof, stairs, door entry systems, drainage and rear gardens are all your responsibility, just to name a few things.


The council’s Edinburgh Shared Repairs Service is able to offer free advice and information on repairs and maintenance but they don’t carry out repairs themselves nor do they offer grants for this unless the council owns flats in your building. However, any repairs the council do instruct include a 26% management fee.



The bottom line


With Edinburgh’s tenements being advanced in age, maintenance issues tend to crop up fairly regularly. Anyone who has taken the leading role in organising a shared repair in their building will tell you it can be very time consuming and difficult.

It’s not always easy to get in touch with all property owners in your building, especially in the case of buy-to-let flats and AirBnB properties. Chasing people for their share of repair costs can often prove difficult and other owners may have to carry the cost for these people.



As we already talked about briefly in this article, a factoring service provided by Edinburgh Block Management can help simplify this process. We’re an Edinburgh factoring company whose goal is to make shared/communal repairs and maintenance of Edinburgh tenements simple and cost-effective.


We can handle all aspects of communal maintenance in your building from stair lighting, regular cleaning, roof repairs, gardening, stairwell refurbishment, door entry installation, drainage, exterior wall pointing, balustrade replacements, cupola repairs and many others. You can read more about how our factoring service works here.

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