This guidance sets out the standards required by Department in relation to the management of maintenance by Housing Associations. This guidance will not normally apply to shared equity or shared ownership homes, where it is expected responsibilities will be set out in a legal agreement between the Housing Association and the homeowner/ leaseholder.
NB: It is important that Associations ensure that the operational guidance provided continues to be current and meets industry standards.
Associations should also use their own knowledge of these areas and apply it as appropriate.
Maintenance is a key service area on which Housing Associations will be inspected and assessed, particularly in terms of tenant satisfaction with the quality of services provided. This guidance is specifically intended to facilitate Associations to develop a robust repair and maintenance strategy, policies and procedures in order to meet their statutory, legal and contractual obligations.
Associations must ensure that their properties are well maintained and in a good lettable condition. They need to establish appropriate procedures to ensure that maintenance is carried out effectively and responsively and in ways that reflect resident’s preferences, where possible. As responsible landlords Associations must maintain their housing stock, and must also ensure that they maximise the physical life and viability of each dwelling, thus preserving the value of social housing stock and protecting the public purse.
It is important that the Association’s maintenance strategy achieves the following objectives:
- housing stock is maintained in a lettable condition that exceeds statutory minimum requirements
- there is a responsive repair service that meets legal and contractual obligations and is efficient and effective. It has published service standards and is sensitive to the needs of vulnerable residents
- all equipment and building components meet required legislative and regulatory standards
- there is effective communication through the Tenants’ Handbook and appropriate interaction with tenants’ representatives
Associations are statutorily obliged to consult secure tenants on decisions of housing management as defined in Article 40(2) of the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1983. Consultation with tenants should be arranged in advance of the scheme commencement regarding the content, timetable and implementation plan for such works schemes. A contact point should be clearly identified for tenants to report any issues that may arise while work is ongoing and to highlight any defects or snagging issues with the work once it is completed.
For more information see Consultation
Note. Associations are expected to follow good practice in delivery of its property maintenance function unless there is good reason to do otherwise. Reasons must be recorded on Associations’ files for the Department inspection as required.
Building maintenance policy
Associations should have a robust building maintenance policy that provides an effective repair service to their residents.
A building maintenance policy should be a clear statement of the objectives and methods to be employed by Associations in keeping buildings fit for use and preserving their asset value. It should define the framework on which all building maintenance and management operations are based and state the life expectancy, or required life expectancy, of the asset. [Source: RICS] The emphasis of a maintenance policy should be to maximise planned and cyclical maintenance works and reduce responsive maintenance. The policy statement should also set out the organisation’s approach to miscellaneous works.
For more information see Miscellaneous works
Associations, as responsible social landlords, must provide an effective, efficient and responsive repair service to their residents. To aid this objective, Associations should formally adopt a Building Maintenance Policy Statement, which:
- sets out the organisation’s obligations
- details the approach to the maintenance of its housing stock
- details the priority that should be attached to undertaking this type of work
- details how information is recorded and targets/ programme monitored
- states review timeframe to ensure policy is current and relevant
- details timetabling arrangements for achieving a ratio of 60:40, or better, in favour of planned and cyclical maintenance
In order to manage this work, the Association should appoint a member of staff to oversee all repairs and maintenance works and have a ‘contact point’ to deal with queries, and to record and monitor progress.
Industry standards would suggest that a balance of 60:40 in favour of planned and cyclical maintenance should be the target. Associations should have a timetable in place to meet this target, monitor progress towards achieving this ratio and have suitable arrangements in place for reporting on this to their Boards. Measurement and monitoring is an essential part of maintenance management and progress should be reported to the Board on at least an annual basis. During inspection, Associations will be required to demonstrate that they are implementing these requirements appropriately.
Planned maintenance should be programmed based on the most recent stock condition survey information and components replaced in accordance with their anticipated life. An annual maintenance plan should be prepared and costed setting out priorities as this will identify the amount of funding required.
For more information see Work content of planned maintenance
A stock condition survey can provide updated information or specific data on the condition of the stock which can be integrated with individual property records. There should be a comprehensive record for each dwelling. Detailed information on the age, type and condition of the housing stock should inform all aspects of housing management and provide a sound basis for effective asset management.
For more information see Stock condition survey
Customer feedback should be used to monitor service delivery and to address weaknesses, improve performance and develop services to meet the tenants’ needs. Reports on how targets are being achieved should be published annually by the Association.
A strategic approach
Associations must have a maintenance strategy for the property portfolio under their control; such strategies should complement and enhance any other strategies the Association might have in place.
As part of the service to its tenants, Associations should set a strategic, long-term approach to maintaining decent, sustainable homes:
- develop a strategy, policies and procedures regarding its approach to planned, cyclical and response maintenance, with published targets for the standards of performance to be achieved
- ensure that good practice guidance is followed to develop and maintain robust stock information
- invest in IT that enables stock condition data to be updated on a continual basis and accessed easily and record property maintenance and adaptation history
- realign planned maintenance budgets to correspond with the actual maintenance needs of sustainable stock
- ensure that responsive repair policies fit with the Associations business plan
For more information see Checklist of key issues to be considered in meeting the Strategic Objectives
Engage effectively with tenants
Communicate with tenants about business planning and finance
Improve regular channels to feed back clear service performance information, and review against service standards
Offer more opportunities for individual choice of finishes and components, where appropriate
Link with established community groups and use new methods to broaden and increase involvement
Set up accessible participation structures for tenants
Set clear responsibilities and establish guidance for communication with tenants
Have a published policy, drawn up in consultation with tenants, that details:
- who is responsible for various types of repair
- the standard of service to be achieved
- how the specific needs of particular groups of residents, especially vulnerable residents, will be addressed
- how the need for repairs are to be reported and how an emergency service is to operate
- how tenants will be consulted regarding planned and cyclical maintenance schemes
- how tenants can complain if there is unnecessary delay in completing a repair or an unsatisfactory standard of work
Manage effective planned programmes
- conduct a programme of stock condition surveys to inform programmes of planned work
- increase the profile of planned works
- plan early for the following years programmes, and set longer-term programmes based on stock condition surveys
- make sure that time for consultation is built into the process
- consider practical arrangements to improve the operational links between responsive work and the planned programmes
- prioritise cyclical works where failure to do so will have a knock-on effect on maintenance costs
- set performance indicators to assess the quality of the service provided
Have an efficient responsive repairs service
Set and reinforce policies and budgets for the responsive service.
Train staff on repair-ordering policy, budgets, building technology and the schedule of rates.
Allocate appropriate resources for pre and post inspection.
Use tenants to help monitor performance eg a customer satisfaction survey on the completed work and on the contractor’s performance.
Identify and improve links between the maintenance service and other areas of housing management.
Set clear, easily monitored minimum target response times, as follows:
- emergency: 24 hours - defects affecting the safety, security or health of the tenant
- urgent: 4 working days - defects causing loss of facility to the tenant or likely to cause further deterioration to the structure, fabric, fittings, fixtures or services to the building
- routine: 4 calendar weeks - defects which can be deferred without serious inconvenience to the tenant
- review response maintenance works content data as necessary to inform and assist in prioritisation of Associations’ planned and cyclical works programme
For more information on repairs see Maintenance Guide classification of repairs
Have policies and procedures for:
- the complete maintenance strategy for the property portfolio under their control; such strategies should complement and enhance any other strategies the Association might have in place
- their understanding of what constitutes a ‘reasonable and lettable’ condition
- defining, categorising, reporting and authorising repairs;
- monitoring response times
- undertaking procurement activities eg how contractors and consultants are selected and work allocated
- ensuring value for money and probity
- identifying and prioritising repairs for the most vulnerable residents and arranging for access to undertake the works etc
- addressing tenant complaints
For more information see Classification of Repairs, Procurement
Implement the right to repair scheme and ensure that:
- tenants are informed about the level of service they can expect
- targets and response times are set for different types of repairs
- tenants are informed of an entitlement to compensation where a service does not comply with agreed standards
For more information see Classification of repairs, Right to repair scheme
Questions and answers
Why do I need to carry out a Stock Condition Survey?
- to ensure that HA’s have and maintain an up-to-date data base of the repair/condition of their assets and current stock
- to accommodate the HA’s in the preparation of planned and cyclic maintenance programmes and budgets
- to ensure that HA’s allocate staff and financial adequate resources for carrying out maintenance works
How do I monitor my Contractor’s performance?
Suggest use of benchmarking toolkit available from British Research Establishment Group or similar organisation. They generally set out industry Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) and cover such areas as construction costs, construction time, defects, customer satisfaction, waste, etc. However for smaller type works, input from consultants, Clerk of Works and tenants can also provide a good indicator.
What documentation do I need to include when issuing invitations to tender?
This list is not exhaustive and will obviously depend on size/ type of work being tendered. However, as a minimum the documentation should include:
- the form of tender
- conditions of contract
- precise written description of the work
- location of the work
- associated drawings
- prompt payment certificate
- bona fide tender certificate
- fair employment declaration certificate
- H&S requirements
- details of any special arrangements
and essentially any other information that a contractor would need to know in order to price the project work – refer to Procurement
When should retention monies be released?
When the Practical Completion certificate has been issued and when Making Good Defects Certificate is issued however, this should be detailed in the conditions of contract and be contract specific.
Can I use Disposals Proceeds Fund monies to finance maintenance activities?
No – refer to Scheme Approval for more information.
Do I need to have a full stock condition survey carried out for all maintenance schemes?
No – however an individual survey of the property(s) would be required to establish the exact works and costs. Project specific information would also need to be available to allow the work to be sufficiently detailed for tender purposes.
Do I need to obtain statutory approvals for all maintenance schemes?
This obviously depends on the nature of the work. It is advisable to check with the consultant and/ or Building Control where there is uncertainty.
Can my consultant act as a Clerk of Works?
Not recommended as this could create a conflict of interest and could potentially result in an unfair assessment of the contractor’s progress.
Do I need to have written procedures for all maintenance activities?
Yes and these should form part of the HA’s overall maintenance policy statement. The procedures should clearly set out the HA’s approach to maintaining the stock, work priorities, timescales, methods of procurement, use of consultants, information gathering/ recording, review periods, etc.
Can the tenant be held liable to cover the cost of repairs?
Essentially only where it can be proved that there was contributory negligence or that the tenant was directly responsible for the damage.
What is the Right to Repair scheme?
This Scheme was introduced to ensure that Housing Association tenants get urgent, minor repairs which affect health or safety completed quickly at no cost to them. It also provides for tenants to be compensated where such repairs have not been completed within a prescribed period. Refer to Right to Repair for more information.
Can tenants carry out minor repairs to their homes?
Yes in specific circumstances that should be detailed in the agreement in the Tenants’ Handbook. Refer to Repair Responsibilities for more detail.