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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

A game-changing approach to repairs and maintenance

03/04/2017


The idea of giving tenants the option of having whirlpool baths in their home is enough to make any financial director recoil. But for Hyde Housing this is an everyday part of a new approach to maintenance which has saved millions.

Ahead of our 2017 Repairs and Maintenance Conference we spoke to James Shaw, director of property services at Hyde, to find out how the company is challenging convention.

“We’ve taken a completely different approach,” explains James Shaw.

“We wanted to make our services more efficient, to reduce costs and to give our tenants greater control and choice: and we’ve achieved all of those things.”

So how has the 50,000-home landlord gone about challenging convention?

“There’s a prevailing view that the cheapest and easiest way to do maintenance is to set life spans for everything and then do whole streets at a time. While this might suit contractors, in our experience that simply isn’t the case,” continues James.

“We’ve introduced a system which is demand-led. We still do regular stock surveys to keep on top of the condition of our homes, but if a tenant doesn’t want their kitchen replaced it won’t be replaced, if they feel it should then we will go out and take a look.

“And we’ve also introduced much more choice into the system with the Hyde Quality Standard. So for example, if a tenant is having their kitchen or bathroom replaced they have a menu to select from.

“They can have our base installation, which is already quite high specification, or they can upgrade it. They can have a whirlpool bath, an integrated oven, choose the colour of the doors, or upgrade other features if they want to pay for them.”

It’s an approach which is saving millions a year and has increased tenant satisfaction.

“It’s not just about making savings; it’s about making things better. Just because you live in social housing it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have choice – why shouldn’t you have the option of paying for something nicer?

“It works for us as well. If a tenant wants to pay for a nicer bath or more expensive fittings then we save the cost of those items, they have a stake in their home and if they decide to leave then the property is easier to let because of the upgrades – so it’s win-win.

“There’s a risk in the sector that we always look for the reasons not to do something. So for example you could say well what happens if it breaks on the new tenant. But we simply give them the option to pay for a replacement or we fit the bath we would have had to pay for years ago.”

The popularity and success of the scheme is borne out in the figures. A fifth of Hyde’s customers who have had their bathroom or kitchen replaced since the introduction of the scheme last year have taken up the option of upgrading. Meanwhile the organisation has virtually eliminated voids on these properties, and made significant cost savings.

“It’s not rocket science,” James continues.

“We just felt this was a better way of doing things and it has allowed us to do much more with the same pot. I must say the take up of the choice-based element has surprised even me. We think this is a game changer and we’re really pleased with the results and really proud of the approach.”

James Shaw and Colin Harnor, head of stock investment at Hyde, will deliver a session on how they introduced the organisation’s new approach to maintenance at our Repairs and Maintenance Conference on May 23 and 24.


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