Annual report to tenants reveals over £4 million spent on major repairs and improvements to council’s properties

East Devon District Council’s recently published sixth annual report to tenants, which reviews the housing service’s performance over the past year (2014-2015), reveals that the council’s housing service is continuing to make positive progress (exceptional in some areas) with its housing stock and service to tenants.

A customer survey of satisfaction, which was undertaken with a thousand tenants in October 2014, showed that overall there was still a high level (90%) of satisfaction with the repairs and maintenance service. However, the council is striving to improve this figure, as repairs not being done right the first time is still an issue for tenants according to feedback.

Major improvement programme

The council has already spent £4,848,741 on major improvements, including new kitchens, bathrooms, replacement gas appliances, reroofing properties and a door replacement scheme. Already 300 properties have had new doors fitted and, over the next 12 months, East Devon hopes to replace the doors to a further 600 properties as part of a major works programme.

Councillor Jill Elson, Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Homes and Communities at East Devon District Council said:

Both our general needs tenants and our sheltered housing tenants have said that their top priority from us is repairs and maintenance. They want repairs done quickly and efficiently the first time and this is an area we have focused our budgets and our energy on. Last year we completed 12,837 day-to-day repairs and routine maintenance, spending £4,109,109 in the process. The good news is that while in 2014 85% of repairs were completed right first time, in 2015, this figure increased to 93%. It is also important to recognize that we use local contractors to carry out these repairs, which in turn supports the local economy.

Councillor Pauline Stott, Chairman of the Housing Review Board, said:

 I would like to thank the majority of our tenants (99.81%), who pay their rent when it is due. This is a tremendous accomplishment that has been achieved consistently over the past two years. Praise must also be given to our officers who proactively ensure that tenants do not go into arrears - we always offer to help tenants who are having difficulty with their rent payments.

A new appointment based repair service, introduced by East Devon in 2015, now enables the council to track customer satisfaction with repairs and gives tenants the flexibility of deciding when they want repairs carried out. Everyone who has had repairs carried out, is now asked to complete a satisfaction survey. To date, this has shown that 98.45% of tenants were happy with the appointment day and time, while 98.17% were satisfied with the work carried out.

Fast turnaround for empty properties

In order to ensure that every new tenant has a home that is in the best possible condition, the council rigorously refurbishes each empty property before it is re-occupied. On average, each empty property is re-let within just 28 days, which is far higher than most housing associations and other local authorities. However, the council is aiming for a new target of 25 days, to ensure that the waiting time for new tenants is kept to a minimum.

Antisocial behaviour

John Golding, Strategic Lead for Housing, Health and Environment at East Devon District Council confirmed that antisocial behaviour, while understandably being upsetting and stressful for those on the receiving end, decreased last year:

I am pleased to say that in 2014 there were 205 incidences of antisocial behaviour, which has dropped to 165 in 2015. We take this issue extremely seriously and work hard in partnership with agencies such as the police, mental health and social services to tackle poor behaviour at an early stage. We do not tolerate it in any shape or form and have evicted two tenants for antisocial behaviour, after our attempts to resolve poor behaviour and breaches of tenancy failed.

Additional highlights of annual report to tenants

  • Annual rental income - £18,103,993
  • East Devon is housing people faster than ever before – those in greatest need are being housed within six to 12 months (in previous years it has taken three to four years). This has opened up the waiting list and provided opportunities for applicants in bands C and D.
  • Property allocations – 278 people were housed in 2014, while 286 were housed in 2015.
  • Waiting list – 2,254 currently waiting for a home.
  • Incentives to downsize – the council encourages people who are over-occupying a property to downsize to a smaller home. An incentive payment of £1,500 plus £500 per bedroom is offered to those giving up larger homes with more bedrooms. In the past year, 50 households have downsized to a smaller home.
  • The  council has a number of projects aimed at helping residents get online.
  • East Devon’s Community Development workers and mobile support officers act as points of contact with tenants, helping them with problems and working on exciting projects that bring communities together, such as  the Littleham community orchard and Switch the channel in Exmouth.
  • The council is acquiring a new computer system, which is due to go live early in 2016. This will include a tenant portal, to improve communications between tenants and the housing service
  • The Home Safeguard alarm equipment is being updated in sheltered properties