Shaun Aldis is director of Property Services at arm’s-length management organisation Wolverhampton Homes and the ALMO’s representative on the National Housing Maintenance Forum.
Shaun is a member of the Institute of Management and a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Housing. He manages internal maintenance, decent homes, corporate procurement, response and planned maintenance, gas servicing and asbestos licensed contracts.
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Posted in: Repairs Advice
The Right to Repair legislation itself applies only to Council secure tenants (and therefore affects only local authorities and ALMOs). I have not heard of any proposals to repeal this.
The requirement to offer "equivalent rights" to housing association tenants came from a Housing Corporation circular (a fairly old one now). This was withdrawn alongside virtually all of the rest of the Housing Corporation guidance when the TSA transferred its responsibilities to the HCA.
I don't know specifically of any housing associations that have chosen not to offer "equivalent rights" to their secure tenants. Since the Minister announcement on 'Tenants Cashback', a number of housing provider have been reviewing their repairs policy and in some instances are occurring where landlords are considering different ways of organising repairs. this could lead to emergency, urgent and non-urgent merging into one new category.
Posted in: sewage spill in tennants home ?
In my experience, should a report of this nature be requested, we would on the first instance cleared the blockage, but would have asked the drainage team or contractors to report back on the cause. If this was not caused by the tenant i.e sanitary items such as nappies etc. then there would be no recharge and if no other issue the job would be closed off.
However if the blockage was due to what the tenant had put down the drain or WC, this would have been instigated our recharge policy.
If the drain was blocked but the blockage was not caused by the tenant i.e due to problems with the drain or soil pipe or just sheer velocity of use of the flats etc., and sewerage back pounds into the property we would require the use of a specialist cleaner to clear any sewerage spillage etc. A full inventory of damaged or soiled items would be made should the tenant choose to put in an insurance claim in for compensation.
Things to consider before any liability would be accepted are. Did we react to the repair within a reasonable timescale, did the tenant continue to use the toilet drainage etc. after knowing the drains were blocked thereby compounding the problem rather than not using the toilet etc. And what was the cause of the fault in the first place?
Posted in: One contractor or two
Assuming that your business case and contract strategy leans towards two or more contractors, the principles and benefits of collaborative working can work equally as well within both framework and long-term contract arrangements.
It must be remembered that under the Public Contractor Regulations 2006 a framework agreement must be set up with either one contractor or 3 or more contractors.
There is general recognition that longer-term contracts can, within legal constraints, encourage investment and actively seek to maximise a range of social values and employment opportunities. Whilst doing this, it acknowledges that social housing procurement decisions are not just confined to ‘bricks and mortar’ but about ‘people and the wider communities’.
In the current economic climate an important consideration is the impact of having only one construction partner should the service in question need to be terminated. Factors that impact on such a serious decision would be the mandatory and essential nature of the service, economies of scale, customer needs and the reputation of the organisation etc. In the event of termination, the advantage of having originally engaged more than one construction partner may make it possible for the remaining contractor(s) to continue the programme of works for a short period whilst accommodating re-procurement of the service. The advantages and disadvantages must be dovetailed with your strategy and would be dependent upon the type of procurement route you finally adopt. For example choosing between a framework or long term contract together with the size and scope of work impact enormously! My personal view is; how can you expect to maximise employment and training opportunities within a framework over 4 years?
To answer your specific questions:
• How hard is it to manage two contractors in reality?
Depending upon the nature and scale of the works appropriate performance management structures and governance procedures for each constructor would need to be established. These meetings would range from: - Annual Reviews, Core Group, Steering, Commercial, Procurement and Specification, Customer Relations, Health and Safety, and Environmental meetings etc. Relationship management, communication at all management levels and collaborative working is key to the success of any partnership. Do not underestimate the value and importance of frequent open and sometimes frank discussions between respective directors in the success or failure of frontline service delivery.
• Does it increase costs significantly?
Not in Wolverhampton! The success of having multiple constructors has provided significant savings. Not just by benchmarking costs and understanding supply chain management but by providing joint training opportunities like asbestos, equality and diversity and customer services. However, this does not mitigate the careful thought needed to the level of commissioning costs reflected in the client management structures
• What do you do if one contractor consistently out performs the other?
Manage it! Ideally this is what you want! You won't achieve excellence with mediocrity. You need to hold them to account, you must ensure they have effective timely recovery plans in place that are monitored and actioned through contract performance supervision meetings. QA procedures may need to be stepped up with client presence on site being reinforced. This may include undertaking work in progress inspections and post quality reality checks with tenants.
• How do you manage tenants' perception if they hear the contractor in the other area to them does a better job?
Not an issue. All tenants want is for a good job to be done, in a timely manner with the minimum of disruption. A key part of this is that they have reassurance that the client is in control and appropriate action is being taken. In line with the bullet point above, early warning notices and the cessation of work soon gets a response. The last thing any construction company wants to see is a dip in turnover!
• Is having two or more contractors a good idea in terms of competition?
Absolutely, Contractors can easily be benchmarked against each other. Subject to contract terms and conditions, if a contractor fails to meet KPI’s work can be allocated to one of the other contractors – thereby incentivising all contractors to meet KPI’s. In contrary, good contractor performance can be rewarded through the award of additional work. Mini-competitions can be used to drive down prices, and all contractors can work together in a Core Group environment. This implements innovative ideas that improve the performance of all, provide shared learning opportunities that ultimately leads to an ethos of continuous improvement .
Posted in: Repairs ban
There are a few factors to consider, which are dependent upon what is in the tenancy agreement by type of tenancy i.e. social landlord or private lease. Normally the landlord is responsible for repairs unless stated otherwise and they should be carried out within a reasonable period of time, however again unless stated there are no fixed time limits, and the length of time considered to be reasonable would depend on the type and severity of the repair. Most landlords will normally undertake repairs once they have been notified about them, however if they refuse or fail to do so you will need to decide on the consequences should you decide to take the matter further i.e. does the landlord have underlying issues and are they trying to gain possession? is the problem major or minor, if the landlord refuses to undertake the repair do you still want to live in that property etc.
Any repairs should be reported, if these are not done, it may also be necessary to put these in writing keep a copy of any correspondence between the parties.
It's not uncommon with the growing number of private sector leasing's that conditions are set that require the tenant to undertake repairs up to a value of £500 per year. Other considerations may be that the repairs of a non-urgent programmable nature. In this case the landlord may of refused at this time but will then include these in a
future programme. Has the damage been done by the tenant, is the tenant in arrears and not doing work whilst this is the case part of the tenancy agreement.
This said tenants do have rights and landlords cannot refuse to undertake work which constitutes disrepair under Section 11 notification or prejudicial to health. If so they may have a legal obligation to do the repair.
Do the repairs fall under "Right to Repair" items, again if this is the case the tenant can request that the repairs are undertaken and if these are still not done can, albeit bureaucratic commence proceeding for compensation.
A tenant should never withhold rent as a method of forcing their landlord. This action would clearly put them in breach of their tenancy.
In many instances it usually falls down to a lack of communication.
Posted in: Fire risk or not?
Where there's any question about the performance of a product, I would suggest that it's important to get the products in question back to the manufacturer or importer, for them to inspect them and advise you as to the cause of the damage. This response can then guide and feed into your risk analysis. This should be channeled through your product supplier, be that a wholesaler, distributor, or trade supplier. My experience of this is that the quality of manufacturers responses will be improved if details about the installed conditions, fault levels, cable run distance, Amperage/kW loading, and nature of installation (e.g., School changing rooms, private 3 bed house) etc. are fed back to the manufacturer together with the damaged products.
Even though there's a 30mA RCD used on the circuit, this won't eliminate the risk of fire from a damaged installation.