New tenants moving into a PCH property which needs upgrading will be given decoration packs to give them more choice in styling their new home.
A pilot scheme has been successfully trialled by Plymouth Community Homes to change the way empty properties, or ‘voids’, in a poor condition are prepared for reletting to new tenants, to help speed up the process and provide better value for money.
Following positive feedback from tenants, the scheme is now being extended, and it will be reviewed again in six months’ time.
As well as being more cost effective, the package of measures is designed to offer more choice for tenants, and also help to reduce turnaround times so new tenants can move into an affordable home more quickly.
Of the 16,000 homes managed by PCH in Plymouth and the surrounding area, on average around 12 homes a week become vacant and are relet to new tenants. PCH is working towards meeting a target of reletting any empty homes within 20 days.
The new measures include issuing vouchers for decoration packs if an empty property is in a poor condition, so the new tenants can decorate their homes in their preferred colours and styles, rather than PCH teams carrying out those works in advance. The packs include items such as paint, filler, brushes and sandpaper, and tenants can select colours from a paint colour chart.
Neil Thompson, Voids Manager at PCH, explained: “When an empty property is in poor condition, we’ve previously redecorated ourselves before any new tenants move in, but we often find homes are immediately repainted by the new residents, as they want to personalise their new home and make it more to their taste.
“We will now be extending a different approach so if the decoration of a property is poor, instead of our teams painting the home before it can be relet, decoration packs will be given to tenants so they can choose the colour of the rooms for their new home, rather than this being dictated by their landlord.
“Residents who aren’t able to carry out any decoration work themselves, or who don’t have relatives or friends to help, will still be supported by our teams with any necessary decoration work required.”
Not all homes are redecorated before being let to new tenants as some may already be in a reasonable or good condition.
Other changes being rolled out include if a repair is not possible to an existing fence, new fencing being ordered in a standard-style in metal or timber, rather than the specially manufactured, ornate metal fencing previously used as standard.
Repairs will be made to paths and outdoor hardstanding areas surrounding homes, rather than these spaces being automatically replaced as standard, which can take much longer to organise.
A repair-first approach will also be trialled for kitchens and for floors rather than automatic replacement, with the aim of ensuring a more environmentally-friendly approach.
Neil added: “In some cases, our staff and contractors have replaced entire kitchens if a kitchen door was damaged and an exact match wasn’t available, rather than replacing just the individual kitchen door itself.
“We are focusing on a repair-first approach where possible now, to help reduce the organisation’s carbon footprint and support our environmental objectives. This may mean a kitchen door is replaced where it isn’t an exact match for the rest of the kitchen but we’ll work to make it as close a match in colour and style as possible.
“Flooring won’t automatically be replaced if it is dirty or stained, as we may be able to carry out cleaning first, or perform a repair. If an item is dangerous or a trip hazard it will still be replaced, but we’ll be working to repair, clean and renew first as part of this trial approach.”
The new void letting standard measures will continue to be fully compliant with current regulatory standards and the Government’s HHSRS (Housing Health and Safety Rating System), and should offer PCH a more cost-effective approach to reletting empty homes.
Vulnerable tenants will be supported by managers on a discretionary basis depending on need, and properties within PCH’s sheltered schemes, including Housing with Support Schemes and bungalows designated for over 55s, won’t be included in the changes.
PCH will be rolling out the new measures more widely from today, 1 September, and managers will be tracking satisfaction levels amongst tenants alongside monitoring relet times, costs and post-letting repair costs to help assess the impact of the changes.
Teams will report back to PCH’s Customer Focus Committee in November to review the results before a decision is taken on whether to adopt the measures more permanently.
Below is a full checklist of the standards which PCH will ensure are met before new tenants move into a property, as well as showing which elements may be the responsibility of the tenant, and what should be in place before tenants move out.