Agenda Item No. 6
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION): 16 JULY 2014
REFERENCE FROM CABINET: 30 JUNE 2014
C2372 DRAFT RECHARGABLE REPAIRS POLICY (HBMCS) (SCRUTINY COMMITTEE – HOUSING AND PUBLIC PROTECTION) –
Approval was sought to undertake further stakeholder consultation on a draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy.
Generally, the Council was responsible for repairing and maintaining the structure of its Council Housing and any fixtures and fittings originally provided. Tenants were informed of their repair responsibilities when they signed the Tenancy Agreement. However, tenants were responsible for any damage they caused to their properties covering damage caused accidently, deliberately or through neglect.
Tenants were ultimately responsible for behaviour of family and visitors and any damage caused to the property would be rechargeable.
In cases of criminal damage or damage caused by unknown third parties the tenant was 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.
The collection of rechargeable repairs had 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.
However, there was now a need to review the Councils 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 was not fair that all tenants continued to pay for the wilful damage and neglect caused by relatively few.
The draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy aimed to ensure that there were mechanisms in place to recharge for damage caused, whilst ensuring that any special circumstances were taken into account.
Whilst rechargeable repairs may have occurred during a tenancy, they may also have occurred when a tenancy was terminated and the Council had to carry out works to the property to make it ready for the next tenant.
Rechargeable repairs policies could vary from organisation to organisation. For some, repairs were raised and works carried out on the basis of acceptance/promise by the tenant that they would pay. Given the Council's previous experience of attempting to recover costs however, there was a risk that debts coulod escalate and rechargeable repairs debt recovery cost more that the cost of the debt itself.
In order to mitigate this potential eventuality it was proposed, that under the draft Vale of Glamorgan policy, rechargeable works were only carried out when tenants had paid in advance for repairs to be undertaken. The only exception to this would be where repairs had been identified as required under Health and Safety and in those circumstances the work would be undertaken and an invoice raised against the tenant's Housing rent account.
Tenants would be given the opportunity to undertake the work themselves if they wished thereby limiting the number of rechargeable repairs raised in the first place. The Council would however have to ensure that where tenants completed or arranged for the work to be done that the Council was satisfied that the work had been carried out to an appropriate/acceptable standard.
In the case of substantial damage, destruction or neglect however Officers would consider taking possession action against the tenant for a breach of tenancy resulting in recovery of the Council Property. It was 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 would be dealt with via the council's Anti Social Behaviour policy.
Currently tenants were not recharged the cost of repairs which were their responsibility when tenancies were terminated. Consequently the Housing Department, and by implication our tenants, paid for the costs which should be borne by the outgoing tenant.
Rechargeable repairs where possible would now be identified during the pre- termination inspection before the end of tenancy and tenants would be given the opportunity to rectify faults before they handed their keys in.
At the meeting the Cabinet Member for Leisure, Parks, Culture and Sports Development commented that it was important to take action on all Council properties to ensure that they were appropriately looked after.
The Leader further commented that the Council was spending a considerable amount of money on council properties and that this policy would help to safeguard the investment.
This was a matter for Executive decision.
(1) T H A T the draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, be approved.
(2) T H A T the draft Rechargeable Repairs Policy, attached at Appendix 1 to the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) for consideration.
(3) T H A T the Head of Housing and Building Services undertakes further consultation with the Housing Services Review Group.
(4) T H A T a further report be provided to Cabinet on conclusion of the consultation processes for the final policy to be agreed.
Reasons for decisions
(1) To agree the draft policy prior to any consultation taking place.
(2-4) To enable Cabinet to make informed decisions on any required changes to the draft policy following consultation.
Attached as Appendix – Report to Cabinet – 30 JUNE 2014