We decided to open the door to pets, explains Silva Homes’ Dasos Christou. This is why
Silva Homes recently decided to change our policy to allow residents to keep pets in our homes.
Silva is a housing association which manages 7,500 rented, leasehold and shared ownership homes across Berkshire and the surrounding areas. We are just over a year into delivering our four-year strategy, which is completely transforming the way we operate.
“Shockingly, we found that some potential customers were refusing homes that they desperately needed, as they did not want to be separated from their pet”
As part of this programme, we have reorganised the entire organisation, adopting a more customer-focused approach. This has seen us invest in our frontline services, as we launched a new website and customer portal, while empowering our residents by creating a Customer Partnership Board. We are also reviewing and updating each one of our policies, so that they work better for our customers.
Our pet policy not only made it difficult for our customers to keep pets, but it was out of date and complicated. Many of our customers kept pets without permission, meaning they were less open with our teams, with some even refusing entry for other services. This caused friction with their rule-abiding neighbours and caused us to spend more time enforcing the policy, rather than dealing with any problems arising from pet ownership. The policy had a detrimental impact on our relationship with customers, as we had to take on a ‘policing’ role rather than that of a customer-focused service provider.
Shockingly, we also found that some potential customers were refusing homes that they desperately needed, as they did not want to be separated from their pet. This conflicted with our core aim of improving lives and providing the stability of a home to those in need.
As a dog owner and animal lover, I recognise how a pet can enrich your life, providing companionship and improving well-being, and I knew that something had to change. We reviewed our pet policy with the help of our Customer Partnership Board, which advises our executive board on strategic and policy-related issues, so that our customers get the most benefit. We also surveyed our residents’ attitudes to the policy, ensuring that we consulted a wide demographic.
“I recognise how a pet can enrich your life, providing companionship and improving well-being”
Almost 350 people responded, with a large majority in favour of a more flexible policy. Only our independent living scheme customers voted against this new policy, so they will continue to live without pets, unless they are assistance dogs. We presented our proposed policy at one of our recent customer partnership events and found overwhelming support from attendees.
As soon as it became clear that there was majority demand for a new pet policy, we began to plan how we could go about implementing the change. We have reshaped the policy so that it works with, rather than against, the needs of our customers. Now, every application for a pet will be looked at on its own merit and so long as there are no major issues which would impact on the animal or surrounding residents, we will happily give the go-ahead.
Our new policy also ensures better welfare for the pets themselves. We stipulate that all animals are registered with a local vet and well cared for. We also ask for an emergency contact to ensure that if anything happens to the owner, the pet has somewhere safe to go.
We are very pleased that the government has also recognised the importance pets can play in the home, as they overhaul model tenancy contracts. Housing secretary Robert Jenrick has specifically called on landlords to make it easier for responsible tenants to have well-behaved pets in their homes.
We will continue to take innovative steps to improve the services we give our customers – watch this space!
Dasos Christou, executive director for customer relations, Silva Homes