Risk/opportunity:(from the Climate Change Risk Assessment for Scotland 2012):
BE13 Rainwater penetration BE31 Increase in damp, mould and insect pests in buildings

Narratives: Flooding and infrastructure, Extreme weather and infrastructure, Resilience and resource use

SCCAP theme: Buildings and Infrastructure Networks

SCCAP objectives:
B1: Understand the effects of climate change and their impacts on buildings and infrastructure networks
B3: Increase the resilience of buildings and infrastructure networks to sustain and enhance the benefits and services provided

Latest figures


Dwellings with no disrepair: 32%

Dwellings with critical element disrepair: 48%

Dwellings with extensive disrepair: 6%

(SHCS, 2017)



Levels of disrepair have declined over the last ten years. Whilst disrepair levels increased between 2009-2011, steady declines have been observed in all categories since 2011.

At a glance
  • Good repair status is a key factor in the resilience of buildings to adverse and extreme weather events.
  • Climate change will increase the frequency and severity of weather challenges, including storms and intense rainfall, wind-driven rain, and periods of extreme heat or cold.
  • The proportion of housing with disrepair has declined. Levels of disrepair vary according to the degree of maintenance, and disrepair levels are generally higher in older buildings.
  • Disrepair to ‘critical elements’ that is judged to be urgent affects 21% of the housing stock.  
  • Requirements under the Scottish Housing Quality Standard are likely to keep property in a good state of repair in the social housing sector.

Disrepair increases the likelihood that adverse and extreme weather will have deleterious effects on both the building and occupant safety and well-being.  For example it increases the likelihood of wind-driven rain leading to penetrating damp, and of structural damage following storms or intense rainfall. The costs of repair are likely to be greater if maintenance has been neglected.   In addition, internal dampness may lead to the presence of algal moulds, pests and a range of impacts on the health of occupants.

Repair status can thus be seen as one of the factors in overall building resilience.  When a building is in good repair it has the best chance of withstanding the pressures of a changing climate and extreme weather.

Related Indicators

BB17/BB18 Dampness; condensation in Housing Stock

CRS58  Number of households falling below the SHQS Tolerable Standard

In the Scottish House Condition Survey (SHCS), disrepair is recorded under four different, overlapping categories, as listed below.  Full definitions of disrepair categories are given in the SHCS Key Findings Report (Scottish Government, 2017).

  • Any (or Basic) disrepair (any damage requiring repair beyond routine maintenance)
  • Extensive disrepair (where the damage affects 20% or more of the building element area)
  • Urgent disrepair (requires immediate attention to prevent further damage or safety issues)
  • Critical element disrepair (disrepair to building elements central to weather-tightness, structural stability and preventing deterioration of the property)

The latest rates of disrepair are shown in Table 1, and the overlap between the four categories is shown in Figure 1.    

Table 1:  Rates of disrepair by category for 2015 and 2016


Any (Basic) disrepair

Critical element disrepair

Urgent disrepair

Extensive disrepair

No disrepair

Some disrepair













Source:  Scottish Government, 2017

Figure 1. The overlap between the various categories of disrepair.

Source Scottish Government, 2017.

The condition of ‘critical elements’ is central to a dwelling being wind and weather proof, structurally stable and safeguarded against further rapid deterioration.  Note that disrepair to these critical elements is recorded even when the disrepair issue is small. The list of critical elements is as follows:

Roof covering;  Roof structure; Chimney stacks;  Flashings; Roof gutters and downpipes;

External walls - finish;  External walls - structure;  Access decks and balustrades (common areas - flats only);  Foundations; Damp-proof course; External doors and windows (dwelling only);  Doors, screens, windows and roof lights (common areas - flats only); Internal walls/ partitions;  Floor structure;  Floor finish; Dry rot/wet rot (Scottish Government, 2017).

In 2016 the proportion of dwellings which had some disrepair to a critical element(s) was 48% (approximately a four percentage point drop from 2015). The categories of greatest concern, however, are those where the disrepair to critical elements is also urgent and/or extensive (Figure 1). Twenty one percent of the overall stock were recorded as having critical and urgent disrepair. This represents a significant proportion of Scottish housing stock, but it is a three percentage point drop compared to 2015. Three percent of building stock had disrepair to a critical element which was both urgent and extensive (a two percentage point drop compared to 2015).

There has been a significant drop in the proportion of properties with some, critical and urgent disrepair over the last ten years of records (Figure 2). There was, however, an increase in disrepair levels between 2009-2011 but since then the disrepair levels have steadily decreased.

Figure 2.  Change in levels of disrepair 2006 – 2016 (Source: SHCS 2013 & 2017)

The Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS), was introduced in 2004 and is Scottish Government's measure of housing quality.  The SHQS is a set of five broad housing criteria which must all be met if the property is to pass the SHQS. Criteria B is ‘Must be free from Serious Disrepair’. This specifies that a primary element fails if more than 20% requires repair or replacement. A single element failure results in outright failure (SHQS, 2013b).  From April 2015 all Social Housing Landlords (local authority landlords and Registered Social Landlords) must ensure that all their dwellings pass the SHQS. This will continue to act as a driver to keep levels of disrepair at low levels in this sector (note private owners and private landlords do not currently have this obligation).  

Disrepair is affected by the rate of building deterioration (affected by building design, type, age and environmental exposure), maintenance regime (affected by occupant awareness, willingness to pay against other spending priorities), legislation and market conditions.   

Table 2 shows disrepair rates for buildings of different ages and locations.  In general, older buildings have more disrepair than new ones. Those built after 1982 show the lowest rates of disrepair of all categories analysed.  

Levels of disrepair are comparable in urban and rural locations.


Table 2.  Disrepair by Age and Location of Dwelling, 2015 & 2016

Source:  SHCS 2016 (Scottish Government, 2017)

Critical disrepair levels are similar for private and social housing sectors as a whole (see Table 3). However, there is variation within the sectors- housing association properties have the lowest levels of disrepair, whilst Local Authority and privately rented properties have the highest levels of disrepair (Scottish Government, 2017).

Table 3.  Disrepair by tenure group, 2015 & 2016

Source:  SHCS 2016 (2017)

The biggest change (between 2015-2016) was the reduction of Local Authority properties in the critical and urgent disrepair category (from 37% to 30%) (Scottish Government, 2017).

Levels of disrepair vary according to type of tenure and dwelling age (see section above).  A range of other factors will affect disrepair levels, including economic factors, owner and occupier awareness, and the perceived costs vs benefits of maintenance and repair.

Robust data is only available for dwellings and does not cover trends in disrepair in the workplace and other commercial buildings.  Employers have a legal duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to ensure a safe working environment, and disrepair issues that lead to dampness should be addressed by this.

Scottish Government (2017) Scottish House Condition Survey: 2016 Key Findings. Directorate for Housing and Social Justice Communities Analysis Division, Scottish Government. Available at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/SHCS/Downloads (accessed April 2018)

Scottish House Condition Survey (2013). Mueller, G., Robertson, J., Guagnin, M, McMeneny, M and Cairns, P. (2013) Scottish House Conditions Survey 2012, Key Findings.  Directorate for Housing, Regeneration and Welfare, Scottish Government.  Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2013/12/3017/0 (accessed April 2018)

Scottish Housing Quality Standard (2013a).  Progress Report 2012/2013.   Available at: http://www.scottishhousingregulator.gov.uk/scottish-housing-quality-standard-shqs  (accessed April 2018)

Scottish Housing Quality Standard (2013b).  Appendix B.   Available at: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Built-Environment/Housing/16342/shqs/AppendixB  (accessed April 2018)

Author of 2016 indicator version: Katherine Beckmann (Heriot-Watt University)