THE poor state of the roof of an abondoned flat in Duke Street, water from which is flooding the property below, could lumber taxpayers with a £20,000 bill.
Scottish Borders Council is battling against the elements, an absent owner, and a fear of wasting public money, in a bid to solve a problem which has been described by the home owner underneath as “a nightmare”.
This week’s Teviot and Liddesdale Area Committee meeting heard that the local authority is being forced to resort to “Heath Robinson” tactics in a bid to halt water from the dormer of the empty top property pouring through the floor into the flat below – because the owner of the problem flat cannot be traced, and there may be no way of recovering the cost of repairs. Principal enforcement officer, Alan Gueldner, said: “We are talking up to £20,000 to repair the roof, dry it out and carry out any rot work, but there is a strong risk that SBC will not get that money back.”
The Hawick News understands that the owner handed the keys back to the bank and disappeared, and although still technically owns the flat, cannot be contacted by SBC.
As a result the council has had to obtain two entry warrants to assess the roof, and even hired a contracter from outwith Hawick to regularly empty buckets of water. But in a bid to seek a more permanent solution, without the expense of erecting scaffolding and covering the roof, Mr Gueldner informed the committee that they were taking a more basic approach.
“It may seem a bit Heath Robinson, but we now have old baths on tressels with drainage to collect the water and remove it from the building,” he stated. “It should work, and we have got to do what is right for the public purse, but also the owner below.”
The owner below, who owns and lives in the flat next door, did not wish to be named, but said: “I have been having to go into the flat three or four times a day to empty tubs of water. I’ve been worried that the ceiling was going cave in and scared to go away anywhere because of what might happen. It’s been a nightmare.”
But Mr Gueldner added: “We have no intention of walking away and will continue to make sure we catch the water, whilst the council continues to investigate the best way forward.”