Policy reference number: CWHT-POL-RECHARGE
Version number: 4
Date applies from: 8th October 2015
UNCONTROLLED IF PRINTED
Aim of Policy
For the purposes of this Policy City West Housing Trust is referred to as ‘the Trust’.
The Trust aims to provide customers with a high quality, efficient and comprehensive repairs service whilst maintaining properties to a high standard. However, some repairs are required as a result of damage or neglect caused by the customer and the Trust considers these are rechargeable as a way of protecting assets and supporting viability.
This Policy sets out the circumstances in which customers will be recharged for repairs and explains how the Trust will maximise collection levels.
Only emergency repairs will be completed prior to full payment being received, the cost of which will be recharged to the customer. This will enable the Trust to reinvest money back into services for the benefit of customers and communities. Other rechargeable repairs will not be undertaken until the customer has paid in full. Affordable payment plans are available to assist customers in financial hardship.
This Policy will ensure that:
• a consistent and fair approach is adopted in relation to defining a rechargeable repair;
• a consistent and clear message is communicated to customers and staff in terms of actions that will be taken against customers or former customers that have caused damage to Trust properties; and
• effective measures are in place to recover costs incurred.
The Trust strives to recover the costs of repair works carried out due to customer non-compliance with the terms of their tenancy during the tenancy or when the property has been vacated.
Identification of recharges
Potential recharges will be identified in a number of ways including:
• when a customer reports a repair to the Service Centre;
• when a repairs visit is undertaken when the customer is in situ;
• when a general visit is undertaken when the customer is in situ;
• when the property is empty (a void property);
• when a customer contacts the area office; and
• by authorised agents of the Trust.
The Trust will always carry out emergency repairs. If the emergency repair is rechargeable the customer will be advised they will be recharged for the cost of the repair. The relevant officer will try to obtain full payment for the repair or obtain as much of the recharge as possible in advance. Emergency repairs are defined as those that, if left undone would be a danger to residents or the general public, or could cause damage to the property. Examples of this type of repair could be hazardous electrical faults, major water leaks or bursts, or where there are security concerns. Emergencies and other repair classifications, target times for completion and repairs which are the customers’ responsibility are publicised in the customer leaflet on the repairs service.
Recharges will be set at a reasonable rate and include the cost of carrying out the works, based on the Schedule of Rates agreed with contractors. A discount will be offered if the customer can pay over half of the recharge upfront or the whole amount within ten working days of the invoice. This offer is not available to Lease and Repairs customers since the Trust is not the Landlord. All costs are subject to an administration fee of ten per cent plus VAT. The amount of the discount available will be reviewed at least quarterly.
Customers have the option to carry out rechargeable repairs for themselves but these must be done within timescales set for the relevant repairs category. The Trust will inspect completed works to ensure that they meet required standards.
If the customer asks the Trust to complete the repair then the customer will be informed this will only be approved once full payment has been received. If required, the Trust will arrange a payment plan with the customer to facilitate affordable instalments until the total amount of the repair cost has been received by the Trust, at which point the repair will be planned.
What will be recharged
Works carried out by the Trust due to non-compliance of the tenancy agreement will be recharged. Examples of recharges include:
• wilful damage or neglect due to actions of the tenant or former tenant, household members, invited guests or contractor employed by the tenant;
• alleged break in to property where customer has not reported this to the Police and does not have a crime reference number;
• any item that does not become defective due to fair wear and tear;
• action not taken by the tenant, such as reporting repairs;
• removal of items left in communal areas;
• clearing properties at any time during a tenancy or at the point the tenancy ends;
• clearing gardens at any time during a tenancy or at the point the tenancy ends;
• making good any alterations carried out by the tenant where approval has not been authorised to carry out such works or has resulted in damage to the property or neighbouring property;
• any court costs as a result of a breach of tenancy conditions, for example incidents of anti social behaviour or gaining access to properties to carry out a gas service;
• call out fees for any out of hours work carried out which is not deemed to be an emergency;
• where specialist equipment and/or materials have been ordered and the customer refuses to have them fitted or provide access (with the cost of the equipment / materials recharged); and
• loss of key fob.
Examples of where a recharge may be applied or where the customer can carry out the works themselves at their own cost include:
• boarding up broken windows;
• re-glazing windows;
• forced entry because of lost keys;
• supplying, fitting and/or repairing additional locks;
• repair due to unauthorised DIY, such as wall removal;
• decent homes components requiring replacement outside of their planned lifecycle; and
• repeated repairs due to tenant actions, such as blocked wastepipes.
Customer responsibility repairs
Customers can ask the Trust to carry out repairs which are classified as the customers’ responsibility. These are usually fixtures and fittings which were in working order when the customer signed for the tenancy. These include bath panels, internal doors, toilet seats and replacement locks because of lost keys. The Trust will require payment in advance for these non essential works.
If the Trust has information that a customer has support needs it will provide additional advice and assistance to help them sustain their tenancy.
What will not be recharged
The Trust will not make a recharge in the following cases:
• to the family of a tenant who has passed away if there is no estate;
• when a tenant goes into residential care and has no means to pay;
• where a tenant has been a victim of a serious crime, and who has reported the crime to the Police and obtained a crime reference number or valid supporting evidence from the Police;
• any damage caused to the home of a tenant by someone behaving in a racist or anti social way or due to domestic abuse, where incidents are reported to the Trust as an act of anti social or racist behaviour or due to domestic abuse;
• works that are required due to fair wear and tear of the property as defined by component lifecycles;
• if a faulty security fob needs replacing and it is returned to CWHT;
• items left in and empty property, such as carpets and fitted wardrobes, where this has been agreed by the Trust, for example, for use by the next tenant;
• the damage is not part of a history of repeated accidental damage; and
• the tenant has been identified as having housing support needs and the damage caused is as a result of these needs.
Improvements made to the property will not be recharged where approval to carry out such works has been granted and completed works have been inspected by a surveyor from the Trust and confirmed in writing. An exception applies where permission granted is conditional requiring the customer to return the property to its original condition at end of tenancy.
Current and former tenants have the right to challenge repair recharges. Such requests will be considered by the relevant Operational Manager. Tenants also have the option to take advice from an independent source such as the Citizens Advice Bureau, Law Centre or Solicitor. If a customer wishes to challenge rechargeable repair deductions from a deposit paid they will be required to take this through the dispute resolution service provided by the tenancy deposit scheme
Recovery of recharges
If attempts to recover recharges have been unsuccessful, depending on the level of debt and likelihood of recovery, the Trust will decide whether to commission a debt collection service or make a referral to court to recover the debt. These debt recovery costs will be recharged to the customer and include administration costs, interest charges, Court and Solicitor fees, debt collection service fees and VAT.
If debts cannot be recovered or are uneconomical to recover the debt will be written off in line with agreed Bad Debt Write Off Procedures and authorised in line with financial regulations. Current and previous tenants risk suspension from future property allocations if they have breached their tenancy condition. Failure to pay recharges is considered a breach of tenancy conditions.
Use of rechargeable repairs Information
The Trust will review rechargeable repairs data to identify customers that persistently damage their property or have other tenancy breaches. This is to ensure that these customers are identified at an early stage and where necessary the appropriate support can be provided to the customer or the necessary action taken to prevent further damage being caused.
How the Policy will be delivered
If staff become aware of problems with effective operation of the Policy or the associated procedures, they should report this to the Policy Owner. This feedback will be incorporated into the policy / procedural review process.
Conditional property improvement permissions requiring the customer to return the property to its original condition at end of tenancy will be retained on Documotive for reference and enforcement when properties become vacant.
The following policies and procedures need to be followed to implement the policy:
• Rechargeable Repairs Procedure;
• Repairs and Maintenance Policy; and
• Voids and Allocations Process Map – Void Works Process Map.