Re-let standard policy for void properties

The following is intended as a guide to the required standards of safety, cleanliness and repair, for any property prior to it being re-let and the same will apply for those properties where tenants agree to move in and have the works done after letting.

Each property must be considered on its own merits and works carried out accordingly. Due consideration must be given to tenants choice to retain non standard items provided that wavers are signed agreeing any future replacements are to RBC standard specification, or that the tenant accepts responsibility for future maintenance as appropriate.

The entire property and garden should be checked in accordance with the following criteria and all works must be undertaken in accordance with the standard Workmanship clauses.

Externals

Gutters and down pipes

Gutters and down pipes should be checked to ensure there is no obvious signs of leaks if debris or plant growth can be seen this must be cleaned out and the gutters tested. 

Roofs

Roofs should be inspected for missing or slipped tiles or slates, vertical tile hanging should be checked for missing tiles and repaired as required.

Fencing

The boundaries to the property are to be checked and where required due to failure, repairs will be carried out on a like for like basis in strict accordance with the Council's fencing policy (see appendix 1). Where an entire boundary is missing or requires complete replacement this is to be undertaken using chain link fencing. As a general rule front gates, double gates to drive, and side gates will not be replaced as per risk assessment and fencing policy, dependent on the circumstances some acceptations may be allowed, a disclaimer will need to be signed by the tenant for future maintenance. 

Paths

Any existing paths are to be inspected and where it is felt that there is a tripping hazard (i.e. 25mm protrusion or more) they are to be repaired, 

Parking / patio / hard-standings

Any parking space / drive can be retained provided it is in sound condition and will not cause a hazard and has a formal dropped crossing. Hard standing (including rear gardens) will be left in most cases providing they are safe and free from trip hazards. Where they are deemed to be unsafe, they will be removed accordingly and garden re-instated with top soil.  

Any patio can be retained provided it is in sound condition, free from tripping hazards and it does not bridge any Damp Proof Course (DPC). If the DPC is bridged or there is a gap of less than 75mm from DPC to paving, then a French drain must be inserted between the patio and the wall of the property. This should be a minimum of 150mm wide by 150mm deep and filled with 15 to 20mm pea shingle. In any other case the patio should be removed and garden reinstated.

Trees and large shrubs

Where small trees up to 4m) or large shrubs (usually self seeded) are found within 2 to 3m of the property typically covering windows, they should be removed ensuring that no tripping hazard is left. Larger trees where the spread of the tree is close to, or overhanging the roof should be cut back and referred to Property Services for further inspection and inclusion on a tree register or removal. 

Sheds, lean-tos, air-raid shelters

Any proprietary shed / air-raid shelter in good condition is to be retained with minor repairs as necessary. Any home built shed or lean to must be demolished, any services disconnected and hard standing removed and the garden reinstated. 

Lean-tos and DIY extensions (including porches) are to be removed and the property returned to its original foot print. If well constructed using proprietary systems and in sound condition and comply with the Building Regulations / Planning at the time they were built, these may be retained provided that the new tenant, signs a waver accepting the maintenance liability for them.

Washing lines

Where existing washing line posts are present but in poor condition they are to be removed. Existing concrete posts can be retained if in good condition. No washing lines, bases or new posts will be provided.

High ground levels

Where high ground levels are found (usually flower beds) to be close to or bridging the DPC these must be reduced to 150mm below the level of the DPC.

Ponds

Garden ponds are to be removed, any concrete surround is to be broken down below ground level the base is to be broken to allow drainage and the garden reinstated. 

Garden generally

All rubbish and debris to be cleared, overgrown foliage to be cut back and the grass is to be cut. The Voids Surveyor is to inspect the garden and risk assess for trips slips and falls, and eliminate hazards as required. 

Internal

Structural stability and dampness

The property must be checked for any structural defects which are likely to be a threat to health or safety or may result in a decant of the new tenant in the short to medium term. 

All floors should be checked to ensure they are sound any floor board found to be loose or defective should be replaced. Balustrades and hand rails to stairs should be well secured and comply with current Building Regulations i.e. a 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through them. Stair nosing should be intact and well secured, any split or missing nosing's are to be replaced.

The property must be free from rising or penetrating damp or damp that would require a decant of the new tenant in the short to mid term.

Where it is apparent that the property has suffered from high levels of damp and humidity, humidistat controlled extract fans are to be fitted to both the kitchen and the bathroom. 

In general terms the property should retain its original floor plan. Where walls have been removed or arches have been formed checks should be made to ensure that the structural integrity has not been affected. Where additional walls have been erected i.e. bedrooms have been subdivided; these should be carefully checked to ensure compliance with current Building Regulations and where required returned to its original layout. If only minor works would be needed to ensure compliance with current standards and the alteration is felt to be a benefit the required works can be undertaken at the Technical Officer's discretion.

Cleanliness

The property must be free of any needles or other sharp objects, effluent or contaminated material and all rubbish (however bulky). All sanitary fittings including wash hand basins and kitchen sink must be clean.

Paintwork especially around doors and frames should be wiped down to remove dirt and grease. Any grease or fat deposits on kitchen walls and ceilings should be cleaned off and where required the surface sealed to allow decoration.

Light switches and power points should be cleaned or replaced were required.

In general terms the property should be clean and ready for redecoration.

All properties should be checked for signs of infestation and treated accordingly.

Services and Facilities

Electrical 

All electrical services should be inspected tested and deemed safe by a qualified electrician. Where required rewires, partial rewires or additional power points are to be installed, all in accordance with the following :-

  • Kitchen - equivalent 2No double above work top
  • Lounge - equivalent 2No double
  • Bed 1 - equivalent 1No double
  • Bed 2 - equivalent 1No double
  • Bed 3 - equivalent 1No double

There must be a live electric supply in the property. If there is a key meter the meter must be in credit and a key must be available.

Any fluorescent light fittings are to be removed and replaced with standard pendent or bayonet fittings.

All bayonet fittings in bathrooms are to be replaced with a sealed unit.

Ceiling fans and spot lights may be retained provided that they are in good condition and that the new tenant signs a waver for all future repairs of these items.

Any external lights, including security lights, that are not correctly wired are to be removed.

Mains operated smoke detectors with battery back up are to be installed or battery smoke detectors with a 10 year life and sealed battery.

Where electric meters are left exposed under the stairs (i.e. not in a cupboard) they are to be boxed in and provided with a secure door with a cupboard latch.

Where any external store or WC adjoining the building and part of the original structure or a legal addition, is found to have no lighting or power points these should be provided (1No light and 1No double power point). Typical situation for this is on the Wates and Laing house types.

Existing satellite dishes are to be removed where required. If the installation is in good condition and can be retained the tenant will be required to sign a waver accepting all future liability for the dish and cabling.

Sanitary ware

A fixed bath or shower will be available, together with a wash hand basin each with hot and cold running water. Where existing coloured suites are installed and are in good condition, these will be retained although the tenant must be advised that they will only be replaced in white, and the entire bathroom may be replaced on a planned programme. Where a shower has been fitted as well as a bath and is in good condition this may be retained although the tenant must sign a disclaimer for future maintenance. If the shower is felt to be old or in poor condition it must be removed and all services disconnected.

Where baths are to be replaced these are to be of steel construction colour white. The bath panel were required should be replaced with a proprietary white PVC moulded panel.

The property must have an internal WC, where these are to be replaced both the WC and the cistern are to be of vitrified clay colour white. WC seat is to be white.

All waste water must be effectively drained to the foul water drainage system.

Grab-rails are to be removed unless the incoming tenant is known to have mobility problems.

Where a bathroom requires replacement, the Voids Surveyor will send a referral to the Planned Team following the void inspection. Applicants will be advised at viewings that the bathroom replacement will be completed post void. The bathroom will be replaced within 9 weeks of the tenant signing their tenancy.

Tiling 

All tiled splash backs are to be in 150mm x 150mm white glazed tiles 2 courses above wash hand basin, 2 courses above kitchen work surface and 2 courses above any bath. A neat mastic seal is to finish the bottom edge of all tiling.

Non standard tiles are to be left if found to be in fair / good condition.

Gas

All gas services should be inspected tested and deemed safe by a qualified Gas Safe registered gas fitter. A sticker / notice will be secured  in a prominent position identifying the shut off valve for the gas supply.

The property must have a live gas supply and gas card meters must be in credit and have a card.

Water

The water supply should be conveniently located with a stop tap for isolation which should be tested to ensure its correct operation. Drinking water must be provided to the kitchen cold tap. A sticker will be provided in a prominent position identifying the shut off valve for the water supply.

Heating 

The property must be provided with one form of central heating. This will normally be gas fired to the standard RBC specification (see appendix). Where gas fires are installed or there are redundant secondary heating systems these are to be removed and any openings / flues swept and chimneys blocked up and vented. Note any boiler or hot water cylinder replacement will require Building Regulations approval unless certificated by a Gas Safe registered installer. Heating instructions are to be attached to side of the boiler.

Where storage heaters are installed these will have an electrical check carried out as part of the normal electrical test and inspection. Instructions on how to operate the heaters will be left within the property. Because the heaters are off peak some defects may not be identified until the heaters are fully charged and working - any such defect will be rectified through the voids team on an appointment basis with the new tenant.

Lighting 

All rooms throughout the premises should be provided with artificial lighting as per the electrical specification. 

Kitchen repairs 

Where isolated repairs are required these must be on a like for like basis so as to match as close as possible and fit with the existing units.

Kitchen replacement 

Where the kitchen is beyond economic repair the kitchen will be replaced post void. A referral will be sent to the Planned Team at the time of the void inspection. This will enable the Planned Team to arrange the survey with kitchen contractor. This survey will be carried out whilst the property is void.

Applicants will be advised at viewings that the new kitchen will be completed 9 weeks after the tenancy has started. A surveyor will visit them after the tenancy has started to allow them to choose the worktop and vinyl flooring.

Any Void requiring a replacement kitchen, will have the work carried out post-void. In exceptional circumstances a kitchen may be replaced at void stage. This will be referred to the Voids Manager to approve.  Where a post void kitchen is to be fitted tenants will be offered a choice of units, flooring and worktops. This will also be the case on pre-void kitchens where the void is 'under offer' to a new tenant and the order for the new kitchen has not already been placed.

Security 

All doors and windows should be in a serviceable condition and be able to be securely closed. Windows should be checked to ensure that all ground floor windows are lockable and all first floor windows are NOT lockable. All first floor windows and above should be fitted with restrictor stays. Any replacement windows, or doors with more than 50% glazing will require Building Regulations approval.

All re-glazing shall be in accordance with appendix E including all amendments.

Existing back doors should be fitted with a 5 lever dead lock.

Existing front doors must be fitted with a 5 lever dead lock and a night latch.

Where both front and back doors and frames are found to be in an extremely poor condition, insecure and beyond economic repair these should be replaced with composite doors or hard wood doors and frames, all in accordance with RBC standard specification.

All flat entrance doors must comply too BS 5588 means of escape (1 hour fire door, smoke seals and closer).

Double glazed units were the seal has failed will be replaced.

General maintenance

Chimney breast

Any chimney breast should be inspected to ensure that no sections have been removed or where sections have been removed the remaining portion has been adequately supported including within the roof space.

Roof space

The roof space should be inspected and any debris or stored items removed. Loft insulation should be inspected and were missing the Planned Maintenance team should be advised for inclusion on future programmes. 

Where fire break walls are found to be missing or there are holes between properties, works are to be undertaken to form new fire break wall or make good as required. 

Note this would come under Party Wall Act.

Ceilings

Where polystyrene tiles are found these must be removed and the ceilings made good and an Artex finish or skim coat applied. Polystyrene coving can remain, unless it is combined with the ceiling tiles.

Where any ceiling board other than plasterboard is encountered, for example, Tentess board, fibre board or timber panelling this must be removed and the ceilings replaced with plasterboard.

Where plaster lath is encountered this should be checked to ensure the plaster is well adhered to the lathing, if the ceiling is showing signs of failure that the plaster lath should be removed and plaster boarded or where possible over tacked.

Plaster

All walls should be checked to ensure that plaster is in a sound condition. Any blown or missing plaster should be carefully cut out and re-plastered using renovating plaster or hard wall plaster.

Natural light and ventilation

All living rooms and bedrooms must be provided with natural lighting from a window which will be capable of being opened to provide ventilation.

Decorating

No painting or decorating work will be undertaken unless specifically instructed by the Voids Surveyor in accordance with tenants specific needs.

Decorating should be limited to emulsion paint, vinyl silk to kitchens and bathrooms and low sheen or matt paints to remaining rooms. Where wall surfaces are very poor lining paper may be applied prior to decorating. NOTE decorating should be kept to an absolute minimum.

Flat roofs

All flat roofs should be inspected and repaired as required. If the flat roof is beyond economic repair, then a replacement single ply roofing system shall be allowed for all in accordance with appendix E including all amendments. This work shall be done 'Post Let' wherever possible.

Internal Doors

All internal glazed doors are to be replaced with standard doors or to comply with Safety Glazing Regulation 14.

Within flats internal doors should be checked and where required fire doors and self closing devices should be repaired or replaced to ensure correct operation. All glazing should be checked for compliance with Safety Glazing Regulation 14, where required safety films are to be applied.

Floor tiles

Where thermoplastic floor tiles are found to be missing the area is to be made good with latex. If more than a 1m² of tiling is missing or the remaining tiles are in very poor condition the entire floor can be stripped at the Technical Officers discretion. Note a check should be made for asbestos content see asbestos section.
If the existing floor slab is in a poor condition the floor may be levelled with latex.

All stone flooring, tiling, etc. should be removed, unless it is felt to be in good condition and will not impact on future maintenance or cause a nuisance through sound transfer in first floor flats or above. Where flooring is retained the tenant will be required to sign a waver and accept all future maintenance and replacement costs.

Timber panelling

Where timber panelling is found on walls this should be removed and the walls made good ready to receive decorations.

Laminate flooring

Where wood laminate flooring is found, this should be removed and any making good undertaken, unless it is felt to be in good condition and will not impact on future maintenance or cause a nuisance through sound transfer in first floor flats or above. Where flooring is retained the tenant will be required to sign a waver and accept all future maintenance and replacement costs.

Pigeon netting

All pigeon netting should be checked. Repairs / replacement of the netting must be completed at void stage.

Bricks / out-buildings / garages / pram sheds

All should be checked and cleared if necessary. Keys must be provided where appropriate.

Stair lifts

All stair lifts that are to remain must be passed to Electrical Engineer for testing. Any repairs required must be undertaken at void stage and the stair-lift must be in working order.

If the stair lift is beyond economical repair refer to the Voids Manager.

Asbestos 

When carrying out void works, particular attention should be paid to any items thought to be Asbestos. Where Asbestos is identified, but in good condition, it should be sealed and marked as Asbestos, its location and condition should be recorded and the information passed to the Asbestos Team for inclusion on the Council's Asbestos Register Data Base.

Where Asbestos is found to be damaged, friable or requires removal to allow other works to be undertaken, it must be removed by the Council's Approved Contractor for Asbestos Works. All clearance certificates must be passed to the Asbestos Team for inclusion on the Council's Asbestos Register Data Base.

Where material is found and it is not known whether it has an Asbestos content, the suspect material should be treated as Asbestos and sampling should be arranged through the Council's approved contractor. All results and certificates must be passed the Asbestos Team for inclusion on the Council's Asbestos Register Data Base including details of locations of samples taken. Subject to the results of the sampling the material can be dealt with as described above.

Typical locations Asbestos can be found:-

Externally

Roof slates, under clock at verge, gutters, down pipes, hoppers, soil and vent pipes, flue terminal, soffits, corrugated cement roofs, planters, front plates to coal bunker, lining panels to timber framed garages.

Internally

Flue liners, seal to flue from boiler, back plates to fires or boilers, linings to boiler cupboards and backs of doors, bath panels, duct linings, window sills, (in Laing house types - larder cupboards, under stairs cupboards, and first floor stud walls). Early forms of plastic floor tile, early forms of Artex, WC cisterns and early WC seats, as packers to windows, pad to underside of kitchen sink, early lino flooring, etc.

Disability / special needs

If a tenant has disability / special needs, the links must be establish with occupational therapists/ health professionals, social workers, support workers, and family to ensure that the works specified are in accordance with the tenants needs and that choice must be offered where appropriate.

If the work would normally be completed under a 'Disabled Facilities Grant', the occupational therapist must approach the Grants Team for an agreement for the works to be completed by voids, on the basis that the money will be transferred on completion. The OT will carry out quality checks during the works and feed back to the Grants Team.

Fire risk assessments

All properties should have an evaluation for fire risk, in addition to checking smoke detectors operate. All internal doors should be checked and any missing doors replaced. Within flats it is important to ensure that the correct fire door is provided, and that flat doors that open onto a fire escape or staircases are fitted with a self closer. Any ducts must be checked where possible to ensure fire stopping is provided between floors. This may be more easily achieved where kitchens and bathrooms are being replaced. All new tenants should be shown the correct escape route and advised of alternative options should this be blocked.

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