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Advice and FAQs to the stair lighting and maintenance policy

19th July 2016

Stairwell Lighting

As of 1 July 2016 will only provide a repair and maintenance service to stair lighting in blocks where the Council physically owns the properties.

The Council will no longer maintain stair lighting in blocks where all properties are privately owned.


A number of questions and confusion has arisen from landlords and residents relating to this policy. As well as a number of complaints about stickers that have been distributed by the Council that give the Edinburgh Trusted Trader scheme details, in the event there is a problem with stairwell lighting.

So after consulting with the Senior Electrical Engineer for , we have compiled a list of frequently asked landlord and residents questions, along with the official response.

1. Is there any reason why a landlord or resident can’t change a stairwell bulb themselves, if they have the appropriate tools, competence and knowledge to proceed?

The Council would not recommend, and would advise against, anyone who was not a qualified electrician attempting to gain access to any part of the stair lighting installation.

2. Is it a legal requirement for private landlords/property owners to ensure they have a maintenance agreement in place that covers stairwell lights?

Owners in these blocks have a legal responsibility to make sure the common stair lighting is in working order and does not present a health and safety hazard. To comply with this legal responsibility, all owners within a block must put in place alternative repair and maintenance arrangements. This can be done by appointing a factor or company to carry out the repair and maintenance of stair lighting in their blocks.

3. What should a private tenant do who has a problem with stairwell lighting?

In the first instance private tenants should refer to their landlord.

4. What should a tenant do if their landlord is uncooperative?

If the landlord does not take any action, the tenant should contact the The First-tier Tribunal for Scotland (Housing and Property Chamber) Private Rented Housing Panel (0141 302 5900) who have helped enforce landlords to carry out common repairs in the past.

The tenant could also contact the Council’s Private Rented Services team (PRS) 0131 529 7454 who may be able to help force landlords to carry out repairs if they are registered and will investigate if the landlord isn’t registered.

5. If any special tools or keys are required to access lighting installations, can these be obtained from the Council?

The Council will not be encouraging any landlords or residents to access any part of the stair lighting installation and therefore will not be providing any assistance to owners, residents or landlords in acquiring any security drivers or keys that may be required. The Council would recommend consulting with a reputable electrical contractor who will have the appropriate tools to perform any required maintenance.

6. Why is it such an issue just to change a bulb?

Before removing the covers to the stair light fittings it is advisable (for Health and Safety reasons) to isolate the fittings from the electrical supply. This can only be done by a qualified electrician, because this will potentially require working in close proximity to 415 volts or other live parts of the installation. An electrician will risk assess the installation before carrying out any works and ensure a safe method of isolation is used.

7. Our lights come on automatically, what happens if the timers are affected by a power cut?

The times the time clock change on a daily basis are pre-programmed in by the manufacturer to follow Dusk and Dawn by date. There are several different time clocks operating across the city, some will have a back up battery that will remember the time in a power cut, but some don’t.

If the time is affected by a power cut the owners will have to arrange for an electrician to reset the time and date of the time clock (the time clock will have live connections to it that will be accessible within the timer enclosure). Or owners may instruct the electrician to replace the time clock with one that has a backup battery so that this will not be an issue in the future.

8. Should we change to efficient LED systems to save costs, and do LED lights have a similar timer system?

Currently there are potentially 3 stair lighting circuits

  • 24 Hour
  • Dusk till Dawn
  • Dusk to Midnight

Each light has 2 lamps within it and these can be wired to different circuits. Generally, every light fitting will either have 1 lamp that is 24 hour or 1 lamp that is Dusk till Dawn and the other lamp within the fitting will be Dusk till Midnight. However, to ensure lamps operate for as long as possible and wear consistently throughout the stair the circuits swap over every day. So if a lamp is lit Dusk till Dawn tonight it will be lit Dusk till Midnight tomorrow night.

The new LED gear trays only contain one set of LED’s and drivers so should only be wired to operate 24 Hour or Dusk till Dawn and cannot be split over 2 circuits. This will require a small amount of rewiring (connecting the circuits up in a different way). The Dusk till Midnight circuit timing was an energy saving measure adopted by the Council several years ago to save power at times when the stairs were less likely to be used.

The old lamps are 8w, however, by the time you take in to account the ballast this increases to 14w per circuit per lamp and this is what the utilities companies charge the Council, so when both lamps are lit the light fitting is using 28w per hour. The new LED lights are better and a 10w LED fitting will produce more light than 2 8W lamps and only burn around 10-12w of power per hour. So there are electricity savings to be made, but with the changes in circuit timings these savings are not as big as first anticipated. However, obviously the Council would welcome the owners converting the lights to LED and reducing the energy consumed.

In summary

Do not touch or interfere with stair lighting installations as you may be electrocuted. Always use a qualified electrician, who will also be the most qualified person to answer your stairwell lighting related questions.

Useful Resources

Owners and landlords can appoint a factor or company to carry out the repair and maintenance of stair lighting in their blocks.

You can find information on Factoring services on the Shelter Scotland website.

A list of competent electricians who have been fully vetted by the Council’s trading standards team can be found here: Stairwell Lighting Contractors.

You can also find a competant and qualified electrician by going to the SELECT or NICEIC websites. Both are professional trade associations for the electrical contractor industry.

If you live in a Council owned property and have a stair lighting problem, then please follow this link: Report a stair lighting problem.