Rent Arrears, Repair Targets, Compliance & Complaints Review
In May 2021, our tenant contribution arrears were £55,734. Whilst this was a decrease from previous months, this is likely to be in part because of a large increase in the amount of former tenant arrears.
What this means is that a number of tenancies have recently ended where the outgoing tenant left with a high level of debt. Rather than seeing that debt as a “current tenant debt” we now record it as a “former tenant debt”. We have seen a couple of tenancies end recently with more than £13,000 of arrears outstanding and where the debt could have been avoided if the tenant had handed in a signed termination form at the point that they ceased to live in their property.
Because of Coronavirus there have been temporary changes to the legal processes we have to use when we cannot negotiate repayment of rent owed to Southdown with a tenant who is in significant arrears. These changes include notice periods to tenants for their arrears extended from four weeks to six months. In June, the standard notice period was reduced to four months and from 1st August 2021 this will reduce back down to the pre-covid norm of one month for rent arrears.
“Tenant contribution” refers to the amount of rent outstanding to Southdown which we anticipate that the tenant is liable to pay themselves. If a tenant’s rent was £100 and they received £80 per week from housing benefit we’d say their “tenant contribution” was £20.
In May 2021, we both attended and completed 100 % of emergency repairs within target.
94.1 2% of our urgent repairs were attended within target and 93.2 8% completed within the target timescale of 7 working days. This is above our target of 95%.
90.59 % of standard jobs were attended to and completed within our timescale of 28 working days. Our targets are 95% attended to within timescale.
We compile these statistics monthly and the next update will be available after June 2021.
Every month our Compliance Manager compiles a report which is shared with senior management, the Executive Team and the Board, showing how Southdown are managing various areas of compliance that we are responsible for.
The information below is for June 2021 and shows that we are compliant in most arrears except for Portable Appliance Testing (PAT), Thermostatic Mixing Valve (TMV) servicing, and Electrical Installation Condition Reports. The reason Southdown is not fully compliant in these areas is because although the servicing represents best practice, they are not things we are legally obligated to do and during the pandemic, we have had to take a view on what poses more risk to tenants.
A TMV is a fitting that is installed to control the temperature of the water coming from a tap or showerhead. It is installed on the hot water feed pipework, before the water reaches the hot tap. It allows cold water to be mixed with hot, ensuring the temperature from the hot tap is regulated. TMV servicing is usually carried out annually and involves a contractor checking that this component is working correctly. When a TMV isn’t working correctly there can be a risk of a person scalding themselves on water that is too hot.
Most of our TMVs are located within our Registered Care and Supported Living services where there are staff on site. Staff at those services are performing regular temperature checks and are under strict instructions to report any adverse (hot or cold) temperatures to our Property Services Team. We felt that during the pandemic the greatest importance at these services was shielding vulnerable tenants and we deemed that staff checking water temperatures religiously but foregoing the TMV checks was less risky than having contractors in the building and moving between clients rooms, potentially transmitting the virus. As the risk is now much lower and as more and more people have been vaccinated, we are recommencing TMV servicing from April 2021. Our contractors will perform Lateral Flow Tests before entering our Supported Living and Registered Care services. We anticipate being fully compliant again by February 2022.
PAT testing is carried out on all portable items of electrical equipment (such as toasters, kettles, stereos etc) that Southdown own in Supported Housing and Supported Living services and on all portable electrical items in our Registered Care services. Again during the pandemic we felt that the risk of having contractors in and possibly transmitting the virus amongst vulnerable tenants was more risky than foregoing the PAT testing. Again as the risk is now much lower we are reintroducing all PAT testing from April 2021.We anticipate being fully compliant again by September 2021.
In June 2021 we reported on 7 properties where the electrical installation condition report was not completed by its five year anniversary date, a target Southdown sets itself in line with best practice. Legally we are obliged to carry out this test every 10 years. We only record a new EICR certificate as “satisfactory” once any remedial actions identified on the report have been rectified. Four of the overdue certificates related to extensive remedial actions identified at the inspection and where careful coordination was required with support staff to manage clients with quite challenging behaviours or specific needs in order to facilitate the necessary return visits and works. One of the properties became overdue in Supported Housing because the tenant was not engaging to provide access but this has since been completed.
Your right to safety and compliance certification
You have a right to request any of the following in relation to your property or block:
Fire Risk Assessment (commissioned annually)
EICR - Electrical safety certificate (commissioned every five years)
Gas Safety Certificate (commissioned annually in properties with a gas supply)
EPC Certificate (showing the energy performance of your property)
If you do want us to send certification to you, please fill out our online form. Our default will be to email the documentation to you but if you do not have access to email please tick the box requesting that this certification be sent by post.
Our Housing Division has undertaken a review of all the upheld and partially upheld complaints received in the 12 months to April 2021. A total of five complaints were reviewed and whilst it is hard to determine “themes” from such low numbers, there were a couple of key things which stuck out to us. The first was that sometimes we are failing to give complainants in our Anti Social Behaviour (ASB) cases, sufficient and frequent enough updates on their case and the actions we intend to take. Sometimes we have found that staff, whilst responding to complainants, have still failed to answer their most pertinent questions about legal processes and next steps. These specific issues have been picked up in individual supervisions with the staff involved but we have also booked the whole team onto refresher training on ASB case management and specific training around managing ASB cases where either the complainant or perpetrator or both have mental health problem, as these cases need dealing with particularly sensitively. We’ve also just recently had a session of legal updates and training from our solicitors. We hope that providing this additional training to staff will enable them to more confidently manage their cases and articulate to complainants what the next steps will be.
There are also lessons to be learnt for us in taking a more pro-active approach. Rather than waiting for tenants to explicitly ask us for something, we could be doing more to provide them with the information or resources they need when we recognise from our discussions with them that assistance is required. On one occasion the expectations of the complainant were unrealistic but we made the situation more confusing by shying away from the difficult conversation to re-balance those expectations. Because often our staff are having challenging conversations we need to do more to empower them to face difficult conversations head on so that we don’t over-promise. Assertiveness and empowerment are key themes we are working on with our Housing Officers currently.