RESIDENTS who were stunned to be charged the equivalent of £4.17-a-pint for water used in building work at their flats have won a court battle against the city council.
Inverleith homeowner Tanya Ivackovic led the fight against the £2300 water bill which followed repairs carried out three-and-a-half years ago under the controversial statutory repairs system.
After working out that at standard Scottish Water rates the bill was big enough to pay for the amount of water needed to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool, the 50-year-old mum-of-two launched a successful small claim action.
She and her seven neighbours are now due a refund of £288, plus eight per cent interest. The council may also end up paying her legal costs.
They also now plan to launch further legal actions to challenge other elements of the £85,000 statutory repair bill for the gable end of their tenement which they say are either incorrect or inflated.
Ms Ivackovic said: “It’s obviously good news, but it does raise questions as well, not least the fact that we had to go through this lengthy process to get to this point.”
Despite having eight weeks to prepare since the sum was first challenged, lawyers acting for the local authority failed to produce a repairs survey.
With two days to go until the parties were due back in court tomorrow, the council’s lawyers agreed to settle, sending an e-mail to Ms Ivackovic’s representatives telling them to expect a letter from the council that would “apologise and offer a refund”.
“The fact that the council had to go to their lawyers at great expense seems to be an ineffective way of dealing with problems when they arise.
“My concern is the inordinate amount of time and taxpayers’ money that has been wasted on these lawyers.”
She said when she first approached them to raise the issue, she was told that because all figures had been examined by the city’s accountants, they required payment.
“This is a very elementary error that they could have picked up,” she said. “It begs the question, what else are they missing?
“There is no communication until you have to take an action like I had to.”
The statutory repairs system was scrapped in 2011 after widespread abuse was revealed.
Eleven people have so far faced charges of corruption, fraud, perverting the course of justice, and profiting in connection with the scandal.
Surveyor Gordon Murdie, who has acted on Ms Ivackovic’s behalf during the case and calculated the use of normal mains water was being charged at £4.17-a-pint, said:
“It is more than disappointing that the council have taken so long to refund a very obvious overcharge.”
A city council spokesman said: “We do our best to ensure that all bills are accurate but we cannot comment on individual cases.”
To see the article from the Edinburgh Evening News, click here.