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Scottish property system

Buying a tenement property

By Joe Elvin

Article 2 of 5

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Buying a tenement property

Considering buying a tenement property in Scotland? Learn about how the process works and the restrictions you might face. 

A tenement is a building or part of a building containing two or more flats that are separated horizontally and designed to have separate ownership. 

The term can include houses converted into flats and high-rise blocks, and both traditional and modern buildings. Tenements can also be office blocks, although most are residential. 

More than a quarter of the housing in Scotland consists of tenements.

If you’re buying a flat in a tenement property, you will own your flat and a share of the tenement’s common parts, but the land remains owned by the landlord. 

In that respect, it's similar to owning a leasehold property, although there is no lease involved. Leasehold properties are very rare in Scotland.  

The title deeds to each flat should set out who owns what. If the deeds don’t do this, certain rules will apply. For example, the owner of the top-floor flat owns the roof above it.

Tenement repair costs

As a tenement flat owner you’re liable for a share of repair costs to common parts of the tenement. Unless the repairs are essential, all the flat owners must agree on whether they are needed, which can cause difficulties and delays.

What is a 'factor'?

Sometimes the titles provide for the appointment of a 'factor'. This is a person or firm with the responsibility of managing and instructing repairs. If this isn't covered in the titles, the tenement owners may agree to appoint one. Assuming the factor acts properly, the owners of all the flats will be liable for the costs of repairs.

Restrictions of use

In Scotland, most property titles have conditions that restrict their use. For example, there will usually be a condition specifying that a property won’t be used for commercial gains. When a property is passed to a new owner, so too are these conditions. Your solicitor will inform you of all title conditions involved with the property you’re buying, normally prior to the date of entry but after the contract is concluded.

If any title conditions are discovered that aren’t to your liking, it may be possible to insist that the seller tries to get the conditions changed or you will pull out of the deal. However, this rarely happens and the title conditions must usually be accepted for the deal to go ahead.

Feuhold properties and feu duty

This complex system was abolished for most properties in November 2004, but check with your solicitor to make sure it doesn’t apply to your property.

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  • Last updated: July 2016
  • Updated by: Stephen Maunder

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