Doubts over tenant DIY cash back deals

Published:  08 March, 2012

BROMFORD: Housing minister, Grant Shapps is pushing ahead with a scheme to allow social tenants to control their repairs budget.

In a scheme that is sure to anger many private homeowners who struggle to find time for their own repairs, council tenants stand to pocket up to £500 a year for carrying out simple repairs like decorating, fixing leaky taps, and fitting doors instead of calling maintenance staff.

The scheme, Tenant Cashback is part of Shapps' vision to help cut the £4bn-a-year maintenance bill for social housing.

Darrin Gamble, head of neighbourhoods (West Midlands) at Bromford - who is heading up its Tenant Cashback pilot - says despite industry scepticism Bromford is determined to make it work. It has been running its pilot from November with it scheduled to run until December 2012.

Bromford carries out an annual property survey at the start of the agreement and goes back after six and 12 months to check that the customer has been keeping to their part of the agreement.

Mr Gamble says it is too early to see if the landlord has made real savings.

However, others in the sector are not embracing the tenant cash back scheme. Keith Exford, chief executive of Affinity Sutton, said he thought the scheme was "ill advised", that it would "cost landlords more" and that it appears to involve jobs that aren't even in the landlord's remit.

He said: "What is the problem we're trying to solve? It won't save money and it won't do repairs better. Our customer satisfaction survey across our repairs service is 87%. What is the problem?"

He said the new tenant cash back scheme would also create opportunities for "fraud and coercion".

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey said: "Above all what tenants tell me they want is a reliable repairs service provided by their landlord. If your boiler breaks down in freezing weather or your kitchen is flooded, the last thing you want is to have to hunt for a handyman.

But, of course, where tenants are willing and able to do their own DIY such as painting and basic carpentry work they should be able to do so and many landlords already have the powers to make this possible.

"But we also want to be sure that this doesn't lead to higher costs in the long run. The government's own impact assessment says that the costs of repairs could increase as a result of a drop in standardisation, loss of economies of scale and low standard repairs."

Social housing landlords are responsible for more than four million homes, and spend an average of £1,000 per property annually on repairs.

Community groups can take on repairs for their local area and help neighbours who are unable to fix things themselves.

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