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Repairs and recharges policy

1. Policy overview

1.1 Overview of policy

This policy is about:

  • Recharging tenants for necessary repair work, maintenance work and any other general Housing costs created by:
    • deliberate and wilful damage
    • negligence, or
    • accidental/unintentional damage
  • Caused by:
    • The tenant
    • Their household
    • Any visitors
  • To:
    • The property
    • Fixtures and fittings
    • Communal areas

1.2 Introduction

This document outlines the Council's Repairs and Maintenance Recharge Policy.

The policy recognises that tenants have a responsibility to look after their home as laid out in the Tenancy Agreement.

"3.2.1 You must keep your property in good condition and use the fixtures responsibly"

"3.2.5 You are responsible for meeting the costs of repairing any damage to the property, it's fixtures or fittings or any communal area caused accidentally, deliberately (e.g. Smashed windows/broken doors) or by your own neglect (e.g. by not reporting a leak). The council have the discretion to decide whether we will carry out the work (and recharge you) or you will carry out the work"

"3.3.3 You are responsible for the behaviour of every person (including children) living in or visiting your home. This responsibility applies to behaviour inside your home, in communal areas (stairs, lifts, entrance halls, pathways, shared gardens, parking areas etc) and in the locality around your home"

The policy described here takes into account legislation and Reading Borough Council Policies.

1.3 Policy aims

The main aims of the Council's Repairs and Maintenance Recharge Policy is to describe:

  • under what circumstances we recharge tenants
  • when we would decide not to recharge a tenant
  • how to recover overdue Chargeable repairs
  • to take fair but firm action to ensure that all debts relating to rechargeable repairs are collected to cover the councils costs

The council will be pro-active in preventing Chargeable repairs by:

  • keeping tenants fully informed throughout their tenancy regarding their responsibilities and obligations relating to rechargeable repairs

1.4 Use of the word 'damage'

The word damage is used in a broad sense in this document. It includes circumstances where corrective work is required because a tenant has neglected to carry out maintenance that is his/her responsibility.

2. Identifying chargeable repairs

Chargeable repairs may be identified in a number of ways:

  • The tenant reports a repair to the Repairs call centre
  • The voids officer identifies Chargeable repairs at a pre-term inspection
  • The contractor identifies Chargeable repairs at a property/garage inspection
  • The surveyor identifies Chargeable repairs at a property inspection
  • Any Reading Borough Council Officer identifies Chargeable repairs at a tenancy visit

2.1 Councils Responsibilities

The council is responsible for repairing the structure and the outside of the property and for making sure fixtures and fittings for electricity, gas, sanitation, and water are safe and in working order.

The tenant will only be charged if the cause of these works was due to tenant damage or neglect.

All repairs related to gas and water must be completed by approved council contractors and must not be carried out by tenants or private contractors.

The repair of defects or damage resulting from fair wear and tear will not normally be recharged unless referred to in 3.2 and 3.3 of the Tenancy Agreement.

3 Occupied Properties

3.1 Reporting Repairs

Tenants should report repairs to the Repairs Hotline - 0800 318296. This freephone number is available Monday to Friday 8am - 6pm.

When a tenant reports a repair, there may be a pre-inspection where there is doubt about whether or not the repair is chargeable.

However, if it has been established that it is chargeable, they should be informed:

  • that the repair is rechargeable
  • what the potential cost will be, and
  • a down-payment of 15% of the estimated cost is required before any works/repair will be carried out
  • that they have the option to repair themselves (unless related to gas an water)

Tradesmen will only carry out works specified on the job ticket. Any additional works/repairs identified whilst on site will need to be logged as a separate job.

3.2 Out of hours

The out of hours emergency repairs service (0118 9372900) operates when the repairs hotline is closed. Tenants should only contact this number if emergency works are required. These include make safe glazing, water leaks, hot water, heating, fire, flood, problems with gas and securing a door if required following forced entry.

A standard emergency callout charge is applicable in all these cases along with any repair costs and is chargeable to the tenant.

All of the repairs listed above will be carried out irrespective of any outstanding debts as the Council has a responsibility towards Health and Safety regulations, whilst ensuring that properties are wind and water tight.

Any non essential rechargeable works will not be done out of hours.

3.3 Criminal Damage

If a tenant reports a repair caused through criminal damage, the tenant will still be recharged for any repairs carried out. All costs incurred will be due on demand and the tenant should then claim the costs back through the courts if anyone is arrested for this crime by advising the police at the earliest opportunity of the costs incurred.

Note: The police will give a crime reference number when an alleged crime is reported. Having a crime reference number does not in itself prove criminal damage.

There could be exceptions to this rule if the damage is caused because of anti-social behaviour. This would be for the Neighbourhood Officer to investigate further to determine liability.

3.4 Damage caused by the police

For any occasions where the police are in possession of a warrant it would be a lawful entry and the warrant would have been issued by a Magistrates in accordance with Section 8 of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984.

When a lawful entry is made the police have no liability for the damage which may be caused in securing the entry.

The tenant will still have to pay for any repairs even if no one was arrested or any items found.

3.4.1 Forced entry/Fear for welfare

These cases will be looked at on a case by case merit taking into consideration the full circumstances and a joint decision will be made by the Neighbourhood Services and Income Management Manager as to whether the tenant will be recharged for any repairs.

4 The Tenant's Responsibilities

The tenant's responsibilities for looking after their home are outlined in Section 3.2 and 3.3 of the Tenancy Agreement.  

This makes it clear that if the tenant fails to carry out his/her responsibilities covered in their tenancy agreement, and by not doing so will create further deterioration of the property, the Council may decide to do the work and recharge the tenant for this.

The tenant can at any point request that the council carry out works on their behalf on the understanding that they will be charged for this work.

4.2 Repairs identified as a tenant responsibility

If the identified repair is the tenant's responsibility it does not necessarily mean that they have to do the work themselves, merely that they are responsible for organising and paying for the repair, except repairs relating to gas and water - see Council's responsibilities.

Private contractors may undertake electrical work as long as the tenant advises the council which trade body the electrician belongs to and the work is permitted by the council, before the work commences. A registered electrician must undertake the electrical work and an Electrical Completion Certificate for the work must be sent to the Neighbourhood Officer to be placed on the tenancy file.

Alterations/Repairs made by tenants

Alterations and home improvements are effectively damage to the property if they have:

  • been carried out without the Councils permission, see Section 3.2 of the tenancy agreement
  • not been carried out to the required standard, or
  • not been maintained or is unsafe.

4.3 Option to repair damage

Whenever possible tenants should be given the option to repair any damage themselves at which point they will be advised by the Council of the acceptable standards required. If they take up the option a reasonable timescale should be agreed, in writing, by which time the work should be completed.

Where a tenant has opted to repair damage themselves rather than the council carrying out this work, a post inspection of the work will be carried out by a council surveyor. This is to ensure works are completed to the required standards and if not, the council will bring the repairs up to the required standard and the tenant will be charged for this.

It might not be possible to give a tenant the opportunity to do the work if it is a threat to health and safety (of the tenant and/or other people.)

5 Repayment

An invoice should be sent to the tenant within 21 days after the work/repair has been carried out and costs calculated.

This invoice will show total cost of works, less the 15% that has already been paid at the time the repair was reported, and the outstanding balance due. VAT will be applied as appropriate.

5.2 Affordable payment plans

If the tenant is unable to clear the outstanding balance within 28 days, an affordable realistic agreement can be made with the tenant based on their household's financial income. This also needs to take into account frequency and method of payment to ensure this debt is cleared in a reasonable time frame, ideally within 12 months of the works being carried out.

5.3 Second recharge items

If the tenant has outstanding debt for a previous repair/works that have been carried out, subsequent non essential repairs will not be carried out unless:

  • The tenant has reduced the current recharge debt by 50%, or
  • The tenant has been adhering to a repayment plan for a period of at least 3 months, or
  • The tenant makes a payment to reduce the current rechargeable debt by 50%

Important note: The identification of a second or any subsequent recharge repair will trigger an investigation by the Neighbourhood Officer (each time) to assess if there is the need to take enforcement or supportive action.

In exceptional circumstances and whereby the above criteria cannot be met, the call will be transferred to the Income Recovery Team to investigate further and carry out a financial assessment to establish the tenants ability to pay. The officer will make a decision as to whether the repair should go ahead providing a contribution payment is made towards the existing debt. 

6 Income recovery

Repairs and maintenance Chargeable repairs and former tenant arrears are both dealt with as sundry debts. There is no specific housing legislation aiding recovery as there is for a current tenant's arrears of rent.

Debt chasing is carried out on a 14 day recovery cycle.

Where a tenant opts to pay by instalments the agreement should be of a level that clears the debt as quickly as possible, preferably within 12 months.

6.1 Former Tenants

Rechargeable works may be identified when a property is inspected before the vacating tenant moves out. The tenant needs to be given the opportunity to put the works back to re-let standard prior to them moving out. However, most rechargeable work will be discovered when furniture and fittings have been removed and the property is vacant. Photographic evidence will be taken at this stage.

In all cases where the address of the former tenant is known, an invoice will be raised at the earliest opportunity for any completed chargeable repairs to bring the property back to re-let standard.

Note: We cannot give a former tenant the opportunity to do the work after they have moved out.

See former tenant arrears policy for tracing and further recovery action.

6.2 Management Transfers, Transfers, Mutual Exchanges and Tenancy Changes

All properties need to meet the required standard. Any works that have to be carried out on behalf of the tenant to bring the property up to standard will be chargeable.

6.3 Garages

For any person already renting a garage, if it's made aware that they have outstanding recharge debts, action will be taken to terminate the garage tenancy. These cases will be looked at on a case by case basis.

For anyone applying to join the garage waiting list will not be eligible to join the waiting list whilst having outstanding recharge debts.

6.4 Exemptions

In exceptional circumstances where the neighbourhood officer feels that the tenant should not be charged for a repair, evidence should be submitted to the Neighbourhood Services and Income Management Managers on a case by case basis for a decision as to whether this debt will be pursued.

6.4 Bad debt provision (financial accounts)

Where a debt is owed by a former tenant, the debt may ultimately be 'written off' the financial accounts - refer to the Debt write off policy. However the debt will be considered live until the debt is either cleared or becomes statue barred.

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