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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 30 June, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing, Building Maintenance and Community Safety

 

Draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Cabinet on the development of a rechargeable repairs policy and to seek authorisation to undertake further stakeholder consultation on a draft of this policy.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet approves the draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy, attached at Appendix 1.

2.         That Cabinet refers the draft to the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

3.         That the Head of Housing and Building Services undertakes further consultation with the Housing Services Review Group.

4.         That a further report is provided to Cabinet on conclusion of the consultation processes for the final policy to be agreed.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To agree the draft policy prior to any consultation taking place.

2, 3, 4

To enable Cabinet to make informed decisions on any required changes to the draft policy following consultation.

Background

2.         Generally, the Council is responsible for repairing and maintaining the structure of its Council Housing and any fixtures and fittings originally provided. Tenants are informed of their repair responsibilities when they sign the Tenancy Agreement However, tenants are responsible for any damage they cause to their properties which this covers damage caused accidently, deliberately or through neglect.  

3.         It should also be noted that tenants ultimately are responsible for behaviour of family and visitors and any damage caused to the property will be rechargeable. 

4.         In cases of criminal damage or damage caused by unknown third parties the tenant is still responsible and the Council would expect the tenant to report such incidents to the police.  In these circumstances and by exception charges may be waived in situations such as domestic violence.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         The collection of rechargeable repairs has been a relatively low priority for the Council in the past due to the costs involved in collection and the previous relatively low level of income received.

6.         However, there is now a need to review our rechargeable repairs policies and procedures because of the level of recent and future investment in our homes in achieving the Welsh Housing Quality Standard, coupled with the improved condition of void properties with the introduction of the improved relet standard. Given the level of investment to improve the condition of our tenants' homes it is not fair that all tenants continue pay for the wilful damage and neglect caused by relatively few.

7.         The draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy aims to ensure that there are mechanisms in place to recharge for damage caused, whilst ensuring that any special circumstances are taken into account.

8.         Whilst rechargeable repairs may occur during a tenancy, they may also occur when a tenancy is terminated and the Council has to carry out works to the property to make it ready for the next tenant

9.         Examples of situations when a charge may be made include:

·               any work required as a result of damage, neglect or an accident;

·               lock changes, replacement fobs and keys (unless the lock is faulty);

·               gaining access where a tenant has left home with no keys or has lost their keys;

·               repairs that the tenancy agreement specifies as the tenant’s responsibility for example, replacing plugs and chains to sinks and baths;

·               removal of rubbish and any other items left by a tenant at the end of a tenancy;

·               reinstatement work at the end of a tenancy where the tenant has carried out work themselves to a poor standard, or where work has been carried out without prior permission and it is not reasonable to give retrospective consent. For example, if a new kitchen had been fitted without consent and fitted to a high standard, then it would not be removed. However, if a load bearing wall had been removed without permission it would be reinstated;

·               reinstatement works in occupied properties where an alteration has been carried out without permission and it is in breach of regulations or unsafe;

·               fitting a fire door where the tenant has replaced the door with a non fire door;

·               damage caused by forced entry arising from gas servicing or other court warranted access;

·               replacing broken glass not due to vandalism

Existing Tenancies

10.      Rechargeable repairs policies can vary from organisation to organisation. For some, repairs are raised and works carried out on the basis of acceptance/promise by the tenant that they will pay. Given the Council's previous experience of attempting to recover costs however, there is a risk that debts can escalate and rechargeable repairs debt recovery costs more that the cost of the debt itself.

11.      In order to mitigate this potential eventuality it is proposed, that under the draft Vale of Glamorgan policy, rechargeable works are only carried out when tenants have paid in advance for repairs to be undertaken. The only exception to this will be where repairs have been identified as required under Health and Safety and in those circumstances the work will be undertaken and an invoice raised against the tenant's Housing rent account .

12.      Tenants will be given the opportunity to undertake the work themselves if they wish thereby limiting the number of rechargeable repairs raised in the first place. The Council will however have to ensure that where tenants complete or arrange for the work to be done that we are satisfied that the work has been carried out to an appropriate/acceptable standard.

Extensive Damage to Property

13.      In the case of substantial damage, destruction or neglect however Officers will consider taking possession action against the tenant for a breach of tenancy resulting in recovery of the Council Property. It is anticipated that this action would only be undertaken as a last resort after giving the tenant the opportunity to rectify the breach. In some circumstances this could be deemed to be criminal damage and will be dealt with via the council's Anti Social Behaviour policy.

End of tenancy and transfers

14.      Currently tenants are not recharged the cost of repairs which are their responsibility when tenancies are terminated. Consequently the Housing Department, and by implication our tenants, pay for the costs which should be borne by the outgoing tenant.

15.      Rechargeable repairs where possible will now be identified during the pre- termination inspection before the end of tenancy and tenants will be given the opportunity to rectify faults before they hand their keys in. The Housing department will undertake repairs during the void period and recharge the outgoing tenants for any highlighted damage that has been caused together with any damages that was not apparent during the inspection.

16.      In the case of tenants wishing to transfer to another Council property, tenants will be required to repair damage prior to moving. In some limited circumstances discretion will be applied where a tenant has to move urgently, for example where there is domestic violence 

17.      For those tenants who are evicted or abandon their homes we will ensure that all rechargeable repairs are identified. Income staff will look to recover those costs if the forwarding address is known and we will generally suspend applicants for future offers of Council accommodation until the debt is repaid or an arrangement made to clear the debt prior to rehousing.  

Discretion

18.      The policy states that each case must be assessed and discretion may be exercised, depending on the circumstances affecting the individual case. In considering when discretion should be exercised and a recharge waived in part, or in full, account should be taken of the tenant's age, health and any disabilities they may have. Requests for discretion will be considered by the Council Operational Manager, Building Services in conjunction with the Housing Manager.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

19.      There will be resource implications for the Council in recovering charges and also in terms of amending the existing Housing IT software. However these will met from within existing resources. The potential debt burden to the H.R.A will be limited by a reduction in chargeable works raised or for those works that are raised, tenants will be expected to pay in advance.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

20.      This policy will support our tenants and communities in improving the quality of our homes, ensuring that tenants are responsible for any damage that they cause.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.      The Council (the landlord)  is not obliged to carry out repairs to the property other than those which fall within its statutory repairing obligations under Section 11 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and those detailed in the Tenancy Agreement. Tenants should have the express permission of the Council however if they are undertaking major repairs or improvements. Under the terms of the policy the Council reserves the right to inspect repairs following completion by the tenant to ensure they are acceptable and meet any statutory regulation or requirement.    

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.      Tenants will be required to notify and report to the Police incidents of criminal damage to Council properties and provide the Council with a crime reference number. This will enable the Police to investigate and where possible prosecute those responsible.  

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.      An Equality Impact Assessment will be undertaken to consider any Equality issues that arise from the draft rechargeable repairs policy.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.      This report is consistent with the Corporate Objective of the Council:

Housing:

Vale of Glamorgan residents have access to affordable, good quality suitable housing and housing advice and support.

Policy Framework and Budget

25.      This report is a matter for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.      The Draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy will affect services delivered throughout the Vale of Glamorgan; therefore no individual ward member consultation has been undertaken. Further consultation will be undertaken with the relevant Scrutiny committee and tenants Housing Services Review group.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.      Housing and Public Protection.

Background Papers

None.

 

Contact Officer

Mike Ingram - Operational Manager - Housing Services - Tel: 02920 673117

 

Officers Consulted

Accountant - Housing

Head of Housing and Building Services

Legal Services - Committee Reports

 

Responsible Officer:

Miles Punter - Director of Visible Services and Housing

 

 

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