EAST Lothian Council is set to force entry to hundreds of homes which still need to have new fire alarm systems installed, six months after they became law.

The council revealed it had lifted a moratorium on using forced entry to access properties - previously introduced by the Scottish Government as part of Covid measures - after failing to meet standards set out by the Scottish Housing Regulator.

As well as an estimated 540 homes still awaiting the new integrated fire alarm systems, one in 20 council properties has still not had an electrical safety check carried out – something which should have been carried out by the end of March under Scottish Government legislation.

A virtual meeting of the council’s audit and governance committee on Tuesday heard that a housing annual assurance statement which was due to go to the regulator had admitted the council was only “partially compliant” with the legislation.

And councillors were told that work was being carried out to ensure that forced entries into properties could begin within “days or weeks”, with accessing properties one of the main reasons for falling behind.

The report said that new legislation required all homes in Scotland to have interlinked fire/heat alarms by February this year and full electrical safety checks by March.

It said: “Due to the impact of Covid-19 on contractor resourcing, material supply chain issues and high inaccessibility rates, the council is not yet fully compliant.

“A letter has been sent to all tenants highlighting the importance of allowing access and staff are continuing to engage with tenants to gain access to such properties, with a particular focus on those properties deemed to be at higher risk.

“The moratorium on forced entry has been lifted and work is ongoing to develop a management arrangement and accompanying procedures to allow forced access to be restarted.

“At August 12, a total of 531 properties (six per cent) had not yet had interlinked fire/heat alarms fitted and 1,794 properties (20 per cent) had not yet had full electrical safety checks completed, from a total housing stock of 9,048.”

The committee also heard that the council had failed to meet the requirement for all its homes to have annual gas safety checks this year due to issues with both tenants self-isolating and engineers contracting Covid but it was now up to date.

And it said the council was one of a handful in Scotland which had not been able to meet the Homeless Persons (Unsuitable Accommodation) Order, which came into effect in October last year.

The committee heard that a lack of one-bedroom permanent accommodation and additional pressure from the Ukrainian refugee crisis had had an impact on its ability to provide the required housing.

James Coutts, from the council’s housing department, told the committee: “The Scottish Government has been pretty understanding of the challenges East Lothian faces, along with a handful of other local authorities.

“We are putting a plan in place to address the issues.”