Handymen doing electrical work

After 5 years since the City of Edinburgh council gave up maintaining stair lighting, I am starting to see some worrying trends with Handymen working on stair lighting. At the start they were replacing tubes but fast forward to today they are in my view taking on work outside their skill level and remit.

Another point is some Handymen appear to be telling customers that they are “Proficient” in electrical work but in reality, they are not qualified and therefore not properly insured. As I explained to a customer, I am qualified approved electrician thats insured for electrical work on your property but if I was say to do some plumbing for you and flood your house my insurance would not cover me and I could be held personally liable for any damage caused.

My business is starting to be affected with basically angry organiser / customers who are trying to sort these issues out. I do understand their state of mind but I have had to point out that I cannot be expected to resolve their problems at my or next to nothing cost.

Handyman fitting the wrong type of time clock

Astro timer clock
wrong clock fitted

A standard time clock will not work on stair lights. Only an Astro timer clock switches the lights on & off at different times every single day. Also the clock has to comply with CEC stair light specification with regards to energy saving mode and tube life extension.

Below is the bullet points on what can happen if the wrong clock is used.

  • Reduced tube life
  • Replacement tube interval decreased
  • More wear and tear on 45 + year old light fittings
  • Higher electricity consumption that may transfer costs to the residents

Wrong fusewire replacement

This can be dangerous because if there was a fault the main fuse could be blown leaving some residents without power.

This was found on a job last year with no chance of tripping if there was a fault I dread to have thought what would happen. Below mains cable was used instead of the proper safe cartridge fuse. In a fault condition part of the fuse system that supplies some of the flats would have tripped.

Incorrect fuseholder
Correct fuseholder

Faulty light fittings

Due to the lights coming to the end of their service life this is where you need to know what you are doing with regards to repair or replacement. Below shows 2 stair lights where the one on the top was heavily damaged. The systems fuse blew so a bigger fuse was used thinking this would solve the problem. Not a good idea in this situation as a lack of knowledge only makes the problem worse. The light on the bottom is how it should look.

faulty light fitting

Fixing Handymen’s work

This is not an easy task having to explain to an angry and upset organiser what is needed to return the stair back to an operational standard. So, an extra bill is the last thing the stair needs.

This blog is not Handymen bashing by any means and they do supply a good service within their remit but electrical work is definitely not one of them. As someone who had to serve 4 years training to be an electrician and a further 2 years to get to approved / superviser level I feel these problems have to be highlighted.

No earth protection
Exposed live cables

The stair above converted to LED with exposed live cables and no earth protection. The person who did the job told the Organiser he is proficient in electrics. For me it is just downright dangerous. Also, no insurance company would cover this individual for electrical work so he does not know or realise it but he is personally responsible for any claims

C&G logo

In conclusion as they say “buy cheap spend twice”

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Maintaining & Managing Edinburgh Stair Lighting

Maintain & Managing Stair Lighting

Stair Light

People are asking me what is the best way to maintain common stair lighting. Edinburgh council gave it up 5 years ago. Having spent over 35 years in the property maintenance sector. So, here is my views on maintaining and managing stair lighting.

City of Edinburgh Council

The main reason why Edinburgh council gave up maintaining common stair lighting was down to cost savings. The equipment is getting old and past its service life. On the upside the Council specified the same solid built light fitting for all properties.

DIY Approach

If you’re thinking of tackling this yourself then be advised other residents will not be pleased if you make it worse. I know this as I have had to rectify a few DIY jobs. I have also had turn some of these jobs down. “Anybody can do this task”. People who do not realise that they may not be insured to work on utility equipment If they get hurt. In this “Where there is blame there is a claim” society. AEW cannot give advise on how to work on stair lighting.

Property Maintenance companies and costs

faulty light fitting

Property maintenance and handyman companies are providing a service to fill the void where the Council moved out. Some offer a low weekly cost maintenance contract. The residents pay 50p-£1 a week each to replace any tubes that go out. That ok but if a light fitting goes faulty then the stair could be left with an extra bill. A case study in one of my stairs was they got it relamped after it was first done just over 3 years ago. The cost was then £16 each to £20 each today. They also had a faulty light fitting and a broken shade replaced free of charge as part of the relamp cost. This works out at £6.67p each a year or 13p a week.


Getting stair lights fixed is easy right. ? Well no not really, I have found after more than 3 years it can be difficult for some organisers . Here is a list of the issues I have found.

The Organiser:- This is usually the nominated person in the stair. In some cases the state of the stair lighting is poor and one of the residents decide to try and get it sorted.

Communications:- The first task for an organiser is to collate the contact information from each flat to find out who is an owner occupier or tenant. AEW has developed a Notification form that you can download for this task.

Landlords & Letting Agents:- The feedback I get from the organisers is there is no problem with them as they are just glad someone is managing the work for the safety of their tenants.

Legal obligation:- Residents can be unaware that they have a legal responsibility to ensure good light levels and the sytem is operational.

Relamp or LED the stair

There are 2 cost effective option as follows:-

Relamp :- This consists of replacing all the tubes , starter unit, clean wash the shade and reset the astro timer clock (if required) . Repair any faulty light fitting or shade free of charge.

LED :- This consists of converting the light fittings to LED as per CEC stair lighting specification


  • Why not change the tubes as and when required
  • This sounds good but is not cost effective as the best way is to relamp the whole stair every 2-3 years.
  • What benefit does converting to LED give me
  • If you follow CEC specification for stair lighting then the stair will use 60% less electricity . Be a lot brighter plus AEW also fits a new Astro timer clock so, your good to go for the next 10-12 years. Also remember the existing equipment is past its service life . Plus you have to look at it the same as having a new car or keeping an old car on the road.

AEW Strategy

No shade

AEW understands that stairs need to work to a budget and abide by the democratic decission on the options they chose. The feedback I get is the organiser wanst a fixed price solution so they can collect the monies required without having to worry about extra or hidden costs. So, AEW decided to include fixed price costs as part of the services provided. Say on a relamp 2 light fittings and 1 shade is found to be faulty then AEW will repair or replace them free of charge. Simple peace of mind for the organiser and the stair.

Get a free survey condition report that includes costs and options for the stair.

Common Stair Repairs in Edinburgh

Common Stair Repairs

If you want to save yourself and your fellow residents from costly common stair repair in Edinburgh then get organised. Local councils like the City of Edinburgh want the law chaged to get flat owners to setup a compulsory common stair repair fund.

CEC shared repairs poster

For CEC advise on how to set up a Shared repair fund

For CEC step by step tenement repairs toolkit guide

Why is this happening ?

Due to the now abandoned Statutory Repair Notice system , properties are falling into disrepair and I suspect that the City of Edinburgh Council does not want to get involved in managing these works.

Why bother having a repair fund ?

Well basically it’s a good idea as my background is building maintenance and the old adage of “a stitch in time” really does work i.e. spend a £100 now and save yourself £1000 in the future.

What if we organise a stair maintenance fund ?

Basically, all good and well done as it’s more cost effective and if the owners contribute a small sum of money into the fund every month then when a repair is needed its no longer a  financial shock and you can fix it first time instead of patching it up on the cheap.

What if we don’t form a stair maintenance fund ?

I suspect the councils will get extra powers so that if a stair does not comply with a repair fund then they may want to force a Factor on a stair and the extra cost this incurs.

Is it not better and less hassle to get a Factor ?

Don’t get me wrong a Factor can be a good thing but you have to pay for this service. One example was that I had a landlord who asked me what was the cost of upgrading a stair light to LED. I said £145 each for your stair. She replied it cost us £200 via a Factor and we have to pay £50 a month Factors fee. Basically, a £145 job cost each owner £800

Remember a Factors management fee of £50 each a month in a stair of 9 is £5400 in total per annum.

Below are some links that you mind find helpful.

CEC shared repairs information website

Applying to CEC for tracing absent owners release of ownership

Stair lighting notification form

Common stair repairs in Edinburgh notification form.

Abandoned bikes notification form.

Abandoned Bikes in Stairwells

Abandoned Bikes in Stairwells

Organisers have highlighted the problems of some abandoned bikes in stairwells and wished they could manage them like the stair lighting. Similary I got a request to assist with documentation that helps manage the bikes in the stairwell.

As you can see in the picture above this can be a typical scenario in a stairwell. Concerned residents are saying this has become a safety issue. For instance listed below are some reasons why bikes are abandoned or forgotten.

  • Resident moves and forgets to take their bike.
  • Student who is a tenant graduates and moves on.
  • Resident no longer uses their bike.
  • Resident who uses their bike daily.

Organisers have highlighted that they do not want to stop people using their bikes but feel they situation can be better managed. Feedback on the Stair lighting notification form was that it worked well.

So, If you want to make your stairwell safer and help recyle unwanted bikes then download a copy of AEW’s Bike Notification Form.

Therefore unwanted bike removal does not mean they are being wasted. The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) have a bike recycling scheme for more information. or see the Twiter link below.

DIY Stair Lighting Repair is Just Not Worth It

Stair Lighting Control Box

typical control box

The image on the right is a typical Edinburgh stair lighting control box that houses the astro timer clock and fuses. If your thinking of accessing this box for your own safety please don’t. Unless you are a qualified electrician then basically you are putting yourself at risk and worse if you get hurt then there is a good chance any accident insurance you may have will not cover you. Also if you make things worse then your fellow residents may insist that you pick up the bill to repair via last man free’s all mentality.

Accessing Light Fittings

damaged light fitting

The image on the right shows a damaged and normal stair light fitting. I cannot stress enough, it is just not safe to access these light fittings. Some have 24 hour supplies with exposed 240 volt live parts. Check my twitter feed


old control box

Typical diy stair lighting repair after “Joe Public” tried to fix leaving the stair in darkness and the residents with a bill to repair. Exposed terminals with a couple being live with 230 volts AC. Not a safe way to leave a job


Uddated control box

The image on the right is the same control box tided up with a new astro timer clock along with the old fuses replaced by miniature circuit breakers fitted in a plastic Din box. No exposed live terminals just nice and safe. Get more information


  • Having a go with limited skills can be dangerous .
  • You could make it worse. I know this when the other residents pay me to sort it out.
  • Getting hurt by putting yourself at risk may leave you with time off work without pay.
  • This is not house electrics and most control boxes are next to the 415 volt mains incomer that supplies the individual flats.
  • All stair lighting is classified as utility equipment.
  • Equally shared costs in the stair means you can afford not to risk it.
  • AEW cannot give advise the general public on diy stair lighting repair .
  • AEW can do a free survey condition report with costs and options quickly.

Additional Information as of December 2019

Receiving verbal abuse from a minority of residents trying to in my view intimidate me into fixing their DIY attempt on the stair lights does not help. Below are my reasons why I cannot fix it for free.

  • Financially I just cannot afford to get involved sorting a DIY stair that will not pay to fix.
  • Calling me out on the rouse of a free survey then trying to pressurise me to sort it is just not fair as I have to say no thankyou.
  • Residents will and do expect the DIYer to sort it out at their expense.
  • You cannot expect a company to honour the warranty on any equipment you bought.
  • So if you want to do the work yourself and things go wrong then other residents may expect you to pay to fix it.
  • In conclusion I am running a business so if my quote is accepted then great as I am insured and I will give a warranty on the equipment that I supply.

EU Seasonal Time Changes

Astro clock seasonal time changes

Seasonal clock changes In the EU will stop in 2021 the twice yearly clock changes for daylight savings , for more information. The UK parliament is also debating on the best way forward and will soon decide their response. If the UK follows them then the Edinburgh stair lighting astro clock summer winter time changes function will have to be altered in some models.

Will this affect Edinburgh stair lighting

Digital astro timer clocks

The 2 clocks on the right are the original 1st generation digital astro timer clocks that are approximately 30 years old. The one on the left can be adjusted to drop the twice yearly clock changes. The one on the right has this function built in so cannot be changed. Also the old electro mechanical clocks has this function built in so cannot be changed.

What needs to be done if the UK changes

So, far nothing needs to be done but if the government aligns UK time to Europe in 2021 then some stair lighting astro timer clocks will have to be replaced. The 2 digital clocks above have 30 year old technology and some are starting to fail. Also the older electro mechanical clocks are preset and will need changing. So, if you are the stair lighting organiser it would be wise to budget for this in the future.

Can AEW change the  astro timer clocks settings

If the changes go ahead AEW installed timer clocks still under warranty will be modified free of charge. An existing clock that can be modified then AEW as a courtesy can change this but there will be a nominal charge. If the clock cannot be modified then a free survey will take place and a quote forwarded to replace.

Extra information

To view the BBC video on why we change the the clocks

Shared Repairs in Edinburgh

Shared Repairs for flat owners in Edinburgh

CEC shared repairs poster

The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) have realised that owners are having problems organising repairs to their communal areas. So, they have set up a help line to give free advice on this subject. You can contact them on 01315296778.

AEW created a contact details request form for stair lighting and the feedback from organisers has been good. They have highlighted that a generic form for shared repairs would be a great help so. I have created a form to aid and assist the organiser communicate with the stair in order to get the relevant contact information and they can inform the other residents what work is required.

For a copy of AEW generic shared repairs form

Update CEC wants to force flat owners to pay into a repair fund

As of the 20th of May 2019 The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) will be giving evidence to a Scottish Parliament working group to overhaul the national rules. This could force tenement flat owners to pay into a common repair fund. My opinion is it would be more cost effective for the stair to organise these repairs on their own. Because of the previous problems with the old the old City of Edinburgh  Council Statutory Notice system. I can see CEC forcing a Factor on the stair to get repairs sorted. Basically a Statutory Notice system managed via a third party. This can work out more costly with regards to stair lights where the average individual bill of £20-£30 every couple of years if self organised or it could be £70-£80 every year not including the Factor’s management fees.

As a result with regards to shared repairs in Edinburgh it pays to be organised and have good communications.

Please check the Evening New/Scotsman report on this subject.

Edinburgh Stair Lighting Guide

Stair Lighting Guide

This is a blog to aid  residents who live in Edinburgh’s communal tenement  properties to organise and understand the process of maintaining their stair lighting system.

History of communal stair lighting

Stair Light

The City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) managed and maintained the stair lighting in both council and private properties. The costs were included in the council tax and the system worked fine until time caught up with the equipment. CEC made the decision to stop maintaining the lights in private properties in June 2016. They also converted via a government grant their properties to LED greatly  cutting their maintenance and energy costs.

So, What happens now

The residents of the communal stair now have a legal responsibility to maintain the stair lighting for the safety of both residents and visitors. This means they have be proactive with regards to repair and maintenance.

How do you organise stair lighting repairs in Edinburgh

In an ideal world they have to get together and form a residents committee to organise plan and pay for the work required. In reality I have found that it is a lone resident who takes on this task of the organiser.  This is because stairs have a mix of residents and rentals and in this digital world you can create a virtual residents committee.

So, How do you go about it

First  of all read my AEW advise for organisers. Click here

Once your ready you need to contact the other residents to get their contact details. This may be the individual or the landlord or the letting agent. Download the AEW notification here. Then fill it in  requsting contact details then make copies and post them through the resdidents doors or mail boxes.

Tips on communications.

  • Put the property address in the email title ie (23 Main Road Stair lighting work) This will aid landlords and letting agents for their filing systems.
  • Repeat this when communicating with contractors.
  • Always check your spam or junk folders as some Gmail and Hotmail accounts can reject some contractors emails.
  • Once you get costs you will need to get a concensus of the preferred options .
Quotes not Estimates

The difference between a quote and estimate is a quote is a fixed price cost. An estimate is a rough cost and  there may be an extra charge. So, get quotes for the work required and make sure they are comparable.

Links you may find useful
  • For City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) advise on stair lighting click here
  • For City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) advise on shared repairs click here
  • Scottish Government  residents association advise  click here
  • AEW Electrical Twitter feed click here

Property Maintenance Companies

When City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) ceased maintaining stair lighting a few property maintenance companies decided to get into the sector. There is nothing wrong with this as I believe the customer has the right to chose.

The thinking that anyone can change a bulb or tube sounds good until you hit a snag. So,I would advise that the customer gets comparable quotes that covers the whole stair lighting system. I have had to follow up on stairs that have been worked on by property maintenance companies and below are some examples of what I found.

Astro stair timer clock not working

Customer reports that the Astro clock is no longer bringing the lights on . I found  the clock memory was cleared  . The  clock had to be reprogramed then checked it for operation  leaving the customer with 2 bills

Customer reported that the lights were coming on too late. I found the wrong date on the clock ie set for May instead of November.

Stair lights on 24 hours a day

Customer reports the stair lights are on 24/7 and was told it was not a problem as they did not have to pay for the power. So, if the clock is faulty why fix it ? below is the reasons why you should be concerned.

  • Lights on 24/7 means reducing the service life of the 40 year old fittings.
  • This reduces the life of the tubes so more frequant relamp costs.
  • If not fixed CEC could insist on a meter being fitted leaving the residents having to organise and pay for the power consumed.
  • Having the clock fixed means the property complies with CEC stair lighting specification but more importantly  puts less wear and tear on the system.

Faulty light fittings

faulty light fitting

One company could not get a light to work so subcontracted it to an electrical company . The bill for this was £190.00p. AEW repairs or replaces faulty light fittings free of charge on a relamp.

Missing or broken stair lighting shades

No shade

Customer reports that the shade was fixed back on with tape. AEW found the shade to be broken. AEW replaces missing or broken shades free of charge on a relamp.

LED Replacement upgrade

Customer reports that the LED lights stopped working 6 months after the upgrade. AEW found that the original 50 year old astro clock was used. It had failed due to wear and tear. AEW supplies a new digital Astro clock with every LED upgrade.


As one customer said to me ” buy cheap spend double to fix”

AEW offers you a no obligation free Edinburg stair lighting survey report that gives you the following

  • Present state of the stair lighting.
  • Relamping cost that includes wash/ clean the shades. In adition free light repairs.
  • Condition of Astro clock and protection devices.
  • Cost to replace / upgrade the stair Astro timer clock.
  • Cost to upgrade the stair to LED lighting as per CEC stair lighting specification
  • A new digital Astro clock is included in the LED upgrade quote.
  • Click here for a free no obligation survey report.
  • Peace of mind for the organiser with fixed price costs so, no surprise extra costs.