The Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) has provided information for repairs and maintenance services that are issuing emergency repairs during the Coronavirus outbreak.
Under new government guidelines, landlords has been asked to suspend non-urgent repairs appointments and to enable social distancing to reduce any further spread of the virus.
Only emergency lighting, plumbing, and gas works are to go ahead to prevent harmful risks to customers and stock.
In a briefing document, CIH says: “Under the current circumstances, when offering an emergency service it is now paramount for landlords to assess how best customers are communicated with, how triage is used in response to a reported emergency repair where a person may have COVID-19 symptoms, and how social distancing is practised in a consistent and effective way to protect both staff and customers.”
The guidance comes from conversations with housing providers across the country, in a bid to share best practice in the most efficient way.
The advice follows a separate briefing from CIH that advises housing professionals on the most effective ways to engage with tenants during the Coronavirus crisis.
The advice strategy comes under five headings to keep residents safe:
- Ask the customer whether they are displaying symptoms of COVID-19 – and then make an informed decision as to whether the repair is an emergency
- Make an informed decision to which engineer is best placed to attend a property
- Conduct dynamic risk assessments
- Wear personal protective equipment
- Wash/sanitise hands upon entering and leaving a property
The briefing also urged providers to consider redefining what an ‘emergency repair’ is and make this easy to access and read for customers.
This, says CIH, should help save time and resources.
- The use of video and/or photographs of the reported repair, to assess and confirm the severity without the need to visit the property for a pre-visit
- Ask the customer to confirm whether they are self-isolating due to showing symptoms of COVID-19, and get this in writing for documentation
- Asking customers to open up their property and vacate to another room before entry if they are self-isolating
- If a customer is not self-isolating but requires an emergency repair, it may be helpful to advise the customer that you will be wearing PPE and would appreciate if they were able to remain in a separate room while you access the property
- Continue to review your tenant communication systems and record what has been done and any responses from tenants
The CIH document adds that it is important to keep an “open and honest” dialogue with customers and contact them to let them know that their repair has been, or is due to be, scheduled for a future date in order to keep them safe.
“Start to plan for how you will deal with backlog of responsive repairs when services return to a steady state,” the document says.
In terms of gas and fire-safety checks, the CIH briefing highlights that many organisations are still aiming to continue with gas servicing “as near to normal as possible”, but are now focussing on the highest risks.
If providers anticipate difficulties in gaining access, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in England has advised that you have the flexibility to carry out annual gas safety checks two months before the deadline date – adding that the use of a date-based risk assessment should also be considered.
According to the briefing, if a resident is refusing access due to self-isolation or concerns over the new stricter guidelines, arrange to call them back in one week, for example.
CIH states: “Organisations are expected to meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes.
“However, we know that many providers have decided to put non-urgent repairs on hold for the time being – this may cause concern for landlords regarding their compliance.”
As it stands in Scotland, the Scottish Housing Regulator has asked staff to record any situations where they have been unable to provide a service because of COVID-19 and to report any significant service disruptions.
The regulator in Wales has written to associations to make it clear that its focus at the current time will be on the impact of Coronavirus – primarily limited to the safety of tenants and service users and ongoing financial resilience and viability.
Northern Ireland currently awaits further guidance from the Department.
In England, The Regulator for Social Housing has issued a statement reminding providers that they are expected to communicate in a timely manner with the regulator on material issues that relate to non-compliance or potential non-compliance within the regulatory standards.
CIH says that, in the event that providers are completely unable to gain access to a property due to self-isolating concerns, they should record all responsible steps taken to attempt entry.
- All details of communication with the customer including dates, times, method of communication, and outcome
- Details of any attempt to gain access and reasons for refusals
- Plans in place to re-visit this property
- Communicated with elected members governing boards
CIH has said it will continue to monitor the situation in each nation as it develops to offer further advice to housing professionals across the UK.
For all of the CIH briefings, and to see more information about how the sector is combating Coronavirus, visit the CIH’s Coronavirus dedicated web page.