The Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, has anounced this morning that a new scheme is to piloted whereby social housing tenants - either individually or collectively - can arrange to complete their own property repairs, either by getting out their own screwdriver or by engaging their own contractor. The Chartered Institute of Housing have responded by raising a number of very relevant points whilst welcoming the general increase in tenant empowerment that could result from this. I would echo this aproach from the CIH. Anything which gives tenants more power over their lives is generally to be welcomed, but there are a range of serious issues that would need to be addressed before such a scheme could proceed. These include:
- legal issues around the responsibility for landlords to keep their properties in a state a repair under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985;
- the potential costs to landlords (and thereby to tenants) of administering and monitoring such a scheme;
- the costs that could result from rectifying poor quality work;
- the possibility that some tenants may enter into such a scheme in order to save money, but which could have serious longer term implications on their health and safety within the property;
- who will ensure that 'cowboy' contractors do not take advantage of tenants, particularly those who may be vulnerable?
The CIH have raised some other issues which also require addressing. This is one of those scheme which may appear to be a 'good idea' at first glance, but could, if not properly thought through, lead to serious future problems. Let's hope that the pilot landlords are fully supported to ensure that these questions are answered before any roll-out of this policy proceeds.