Trapped West Lothian couple 'can't sell home' after receiving 'devastating letter'

A West Lothian couple have been left devastated as they claim the discovery of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in their home has meant they cannot sell their property.

The crumbling concrete has sparked a crisis for governments, councils and homeowners across the country with safety concerns surrounding the material used to build flat roofed structures from the 1960s to 1990s.

Brenda McMeechan, 54 and her partner, Neil, 60, who have stayed on Avon Drive, Linlithgow, for 28 years, received a letter from the local authority telling them that RAAC had been discovered in neighbouring properties similar to their own.

READ MORE: Armed Edinburgh gang 'butcher two dogs' in alleged 'revenge attack'

READ MORE: Edinburgh teacher's 30 years in one of city's most deprived neighbourhoods

The couple had planned to sell their property in February but they claim that an estate agent said that a surveyor would not attend their home due to the RAAC letter that was sent to tenants and owners on the street.

This has meant that the pair have been trapped in their home, unable to sell up and move onto the next stage in their lives.

Sign up for Edinburgh Live newsletters for more headlines straight to your inbox

They bought their home as part of the right to buy scheme that was introduced by the UK government in the 1980s.

“I first heard about RAAC in February when the West Lothian Council wrote to homeowners and tenants on Avon Drive,” she said. “That said, I was aware of RAAC via the press when it was reported about collapse in schools but was unaware it was in my own home.

“I was devastated as I was hoping to sell my property and had planned to market it in February earlier this year. The letter I received was very brief and recommended I consult with a structural engineer and contact my insurance for advice.

“The letter did not stipulate where RAAC had been found in the neighbouring property so to contact my insurance for advice would have been difficult especially as I was not informed where RAAC had been found in the property of the same construction as my home. A better informed letter would have helped me understand what I was facing.

“I also wrote to the council regarding their letter and expressed my deep concern over the impact their letter had on my ability to market my property. Furthermore, I asked for clarification from them regarding their responsibilities in addressing the matter.

“I got the same response that I am seeing so many times now in that, as my property is privately owned, the responsibility lies with me. These responses are unhelpful.

“I have many fears as my property is a terrace type like all Avon Drive properties that have been impacted. The costs to remove RAAC is going to be extortionate as the roof will likely need to be completely removed and replaced to enable the removal of the RAAC panels that make up the ceilings.”

Brenda says that she is fearful that the removal of RAAC is just one element of the costs that she could face as part of the discovery.

Rewiring the ceiling and also finding temporary accommodation while the work is carried out could also place financial strain on the couple.

“My fears extend to the issues the removal could come across such as rewiring my property given the lighting required in the ceilings,” she added. “The costs also extend to accommodation whilst construction takes place and the upheaval impacting not only me but my partner and pets.

“The costs and everything else included could surpass £50,000, causing anxiety, stress and worry. In addition, I am worried my home building insurance will be impacted by this and insurance costs are likely to increase significantly or I might not be able to insure my home going forwards.

“I planned to market my property in February and had engaged with an estate agent to start the process for me. The booking was made for the photographer and surveyor to attend my property and carry out the work.

“Five days before they were due to attend my property, I received a call to say the surveyor would not carry out the survey on my property due to the letter I had received from the council.

“I was devastated as without the survey I could not market my home. I am now tied to my home and cannot move on to the next phase of my life which is causing undue stress.

“I would like the council and government to work together and take complete control of this situation and rectify it, after all they encouraged the sale of council houses through the right to buy scheme and to discharge their responsibilities, on to homeowners, is unacceptable.”

West Lothian Council say that properties with RAAC are not currently designated as inherently defective and that the cost to households for remedial work can vary.

They add that construction guidance on RAAC only changed in 2023 and that when home were built and sold, there were no safety concerns.

A council spokesperson said: “West Lothian Council has never sold homes after being made aware of safety issues concerning Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) planks. The council is following guidance that was issued by the Institute of Structural Engineers in April 2023 regarding survey programmes and the presence of RAAC.

“This is the guidance adopted by the Scottish Government, other local authorities and Registered Social Landlords. It is following this advice, issued only last year, that we have taken all appropriate steps.

“We cannot provide private owners with specific information relating to their own homes. Owner occupiers who have purchased their home, whether a former council house or not, have sole responsibility of their properties and this has been confirmed by the Scottish Government.

Join Edinburgh Live's Whatsapp Community here and get the latest news sent straight to your messages.

“Properties with RAAC are not currently designated as inherently defective, and the responsibility for assessing its construction materials and potential RAAC presence lies with the owners.

“Home purchasers are generally required to obtain property surveys prior to purchasing a home. A survey, if obtained, will identify issues of relevance to the purchaser, in line within specific industry requirements for surveys at the time they were obtained.

“The scope of any survey instructed, is a matter between the purchaser and their surveyor. Those purchasing former council houses had the same right as purchasers of non-council houses, to obtain a survey and to rely upon its terms.

“While the council cannot provide financial assistance or undertake private property inspections, details of where homeowners can find professional support is available on our website here.

“Further information and guidance to help homeowners effectively maintain and repair their own properties is also available here.

“We recently invited all homeowners affected to meet with us to allow us to gather the issues that homeowners want to raise with the Housing Minister, on their behalf.

“The council has requested a meeting with the Minister for Housing to discuss the Scottish Government’s role and support to West Lothian homeowners who may be affected by RAAC. We will pass on homeowners feedback to the Housing Minister when we meet.”