Sheffield Council makes pledges on improving housing repairs service, and may charge for missed appointments
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Director of housing services Janet Sharpe told council’s housing policy committee that areas of particular concern include disrepair, the repairs backlog and loss of income from vacant properties.
The committee was looking at a quarterly housing performance report for the first three months of this year. It follows the council making a series of commitments about how it will act as a landlord following discussions with tenants.
This includes repairs being done “right first time, to a good standard and within agreed timescales”.
Members of the committee described the problems that tenants have with getting repairs done. They say tenants have seen staff sitting outside their homes in council vans but not actually knocking before leaving again.
The report says that tenants report 65 per cent satisfaction with repairs over the past 12 months, 81 per cent satisfaction with the quality of repairs and 66 per cent satisfaction with the time taken to complete them.
The satisfaction level for first-time completion of repairs stands at 75 per cent.
The pandemic created a huge backlog as only emergency repairs were undertaken during lockdowns.
A report to the committee says: “The service has seen a 30-40% increase in demand for repairs compared to pre-COVID and repairs are typicallylarger and more expensive than they would have been if COVID had not so extensively limited our activity.
“We are still working to a significant backlog of repairs, meaning that waiting times for repairs are still too long at times.”
The report admits: “Since COVID, we have also had increasing challenges around disrepair claims in our properties, which have proven increasingly costly.
“We know that this is an area we need to prioritise and are targeting additional resource at it.”
This includes using sub-contractors to help cut down waiting times.
‘Tenants are sat waiting’
The backlog has reduced from 4,000 planned repairs and 4,000 responsive repairs in the last quarter of 2021 to 3,400 and 2,700 respectively.
Director of direct services Tom Smith added that there are “some green shoots of recovery. Some of that improvement has continued”.
“There is still some way for this service to go to be where we want it to be,” he said.
Councillor Denise Fox said: “The reports we’re getting is that officers don’t turn up or they’re sitting in vans outside. People are saying they’re sitting there and going off or they’ve sneaked a card through the door and just drove off and tenants are sat waiting.”
She asked if there was a plan to charge tenants for missed appointments.
Janet Sharpe replied that is being considered when the service has improved.
She added: “We do have instances where tenants won’t let us in whatever we do. We spend a huge amount of time trying to gain access.
“Officers will turn up and nobody is in. Once we get to that point (when the service improves), we have got to change behaviour sometime.”
She said that missed appointments cost money and mean other tenants have to wait longer for their repairs.
Tom Smith said IT systems can track vehicles to see if repair staff are where they should be.