Repairs: Sharing Responsibility

There’s been plenty of change for me this year as finally, after 25 long years, I moved out of my parents’ house. 

Despite feeling relatively prepared, a couple of months in – disaster struck. One morning I woke up to the bitter north east cold wondering “where on earth has my heating gone?”. Waddling over to the boiler wrapped in a duvet I was greeted with an angry flashing light – “flame failure”.  

Of course, being new to living on my own I had no clue what this meant, let alone what to do. So as a tenant, like I’m supposed to, I contacted my landlord who called an engineer but unfortunately, they couldn’t attend for a few days.  

Fast forward to four days down the line it turns out I’d been left in a freezing cold flat all because of built up pressure which turns out is an incredibly simple problem to fix, and one I could have solved myself. 

 Tenant power 

It got me thinking – if I had some designated power as a tenant over repairs would it make life easier for everyone? It’s incredibly frustrating to realise a problem that’s left you in an inconvenient situation could have been fixed so easily. Also, as repairs is the number one issue for most tenants, how might this help improve customer relations?  

 Tenants are often made to feel helpless at the risk of being charged or blamed if a minor repair goes wrong. Or left frustrated at the prospect of waiting for repairs they could be quite capable of fixing themselves.  

There needs to be a balance of understanding of the urgency of their repairs issues and empowering them to do what they can at home, which in my view would be beneficial to both parties.  

We’re not talking huge levels of responsibility but say in my case, if someone had given me a basic guide or lesson in how to maintain the basics of a boiler then I wouldn’t have been without heating and hot water. 

Eastlight solution 

One of our clients has implemented a similar concept. Eastlight Community Homes operates on a community gateway model with residents leading and making decisions about their own homes and communities – it’s all about empowerment.   

Eastlight spearheaded the introduction of a Home MOT to not only identify and carry out repairs and maintenance jobs, but to significantly reduce call outs as well. 

It does this through various routes including preventative home visits to establish and resolve problems before they can occur. They also create opportunities to pass on skills to customers, so they are able fix small problems themselves – reducing the need to report repairs and callouts.  

By empowering its residents, Eastlight has been able to reduce future callouts by up to 50% in some areas. But more importantly the MOT structure is drastically improving relationships with customers. From a comms perspective, this is a great story to tell and one which we were able to help Eastlight share with Inside Housing. 

Eastlight has established a joint responsibility in order to keep tenants’ homes safe and secure. The MOT is providing consistency and clarity, which can only benefit customer relationships. Surely when it comes to these facts and figures, sharing repairs responsibility no matter how small, is something the wider housing sector can learn from.