Tenants Annual Report 2018

Welcome

Introduction

Welcome to the Tenants’ Annual Report 2018. Following positive feedback from last year this is our second digital Annual Report. We hope that you find the information accessible and easy to digest. The report is divided into sections which highlight what services have been up to during 2017/18. Paper copies of each section of the report are available on request for people who are not yet online. To request a copy call 0300 123 66 33.

Each year tenants from across the Borough join together to help write the Annual Report by examining performance information and assessing how South Tyneside Homes performs against the standards set out in the Regulatory Framework. Through our role as tenants we are independent and are able to provide you with a balanced report on how South Tyneside Homes is performing and more importantly where there is room for improvement going forward. This is why it is important that the annual report is written by tenants for tenants.

Why Do We Need a Tenants’ Annual Report?

Why Do We Need a Tenants’ Annual Report?

The Regulatory Framework for Social Housing 2015

The Regulator of Social Housing regulates registered providers of social housing to promote a viable, efficient and well-governed social housing sector able to deliver homes that meet a range of needs. The Regulatory Framework for Social Housing outlines what is expected of registered housing providers by setting out ‘standards’ for service delivery.

South Tyneside Council, in partnership with South Tyneside Homes, is responsible for ensuring these standards are being met in a clear and accountable way. It must demonstrate that it has worked with customers to develop and agree standards that set out how services will be delivered. The Annual Report sets out the standards and shows how South Tyneside Council and South Tyneside Homes work with tenants to ensure that the standards are being met.

The View from the Organisation

The View from the Organisation

South Tyneside Homes continues to provide good housing services to customers despite ongoing austerity pressures which means we have to look at more innovative ways of delivery services. It has been great to see our in-house workforce, Property Services start building homes again and this will be an area that we will be looking to increase our in-house development opportunities during the coming year to provide more needed homes for the borough.

Fire safety has been high on the agenda following the tragic events at Grenfell in 2017 and we have worked hard to carry out intrusive Type 4 fire risk assessments in all our high rise block and housing plus schemes to ensure the safety of our residents, coupled with the investment into sprinkler system for our high rise. This will ensure that our customers are safe in their homes.

We recognise that a large number of customers wish to communicate with us using modern technology. We have therefore invested a great deal of time to improve and modernise our customer service with new digital services for customers to access our services. We will continue to develop and improve these services through the coming year whilst continuing to maintain traditional channels of communication to ensure we are accessible for all customers.

  • Councillor Ed Malcolm Chair of South Tyneside Homes’ Board
  • Councillor Mark Walsh Lead Member for Housing and Transport
  • Paul Mains Managing Director of South Tyneside Homes

Involvement and Empowerment Standard

What The Regulator Says Landlords Should Deliver Under This Standard

  • Enable tenants’ to scrutinise their landlord’s performance and to make recommendations about how performance might be improved
  • Provide support to tenants to build their capacity to be involved
  • Demonstrate how they respond to tenants needs in the way they provide services
  • Provide customers with accessible, relevant and timely information about the service information available to them
  • Have an approach to complaints that is clear, simple and accessible that ensures that complaints are resolved promptly, politely and fairly

The Involvement and Empowerment standard covers the following services. Please click below to see the relevant section, or read an overview of performance against this standard.

Customer Involvement

Customer Involvement

Customers were involved in a variety of improvements across the organisation last year. The Tenant Inspectors and Scrutiny Panel reviewed four service areas which led to 103 recommendations being made to senior management on how services could be improved. Involvement groups have also monitored performance against the organisation’s service standards. They have also been involved in the development of a new Repairs and Maintenance Policy and Housing Allocations Policy, which are important to ensure that the organisation delivers good services to customers.

To support tenants to be involved in shaping and scrutinising services, the Involvement team facilitated a number of training courses during the year including safeguarding and computer skills. A total of 65 customers attended training during the year.

South Tyneside Homes has recently launched YourView, a new digital engagement platform which will give customers the opportunity to give their views online. This will be integrated with other activities to ensure that customers have a variety of ways to get involved and help improve South Tyneside Homes’ services. The new service will also provide customers with feedback on what is being changed and improved as a result of their views. To see how this will work and to get involved, visit the YourView page of the website.

For further details on what involvement groups have been working on and how you can get involved in shaping housing services, visit the Involvement section of our website.

Customer Services and Feedback

Customer Services and Feedback

A number of changes were made last year to Customer Services to ensure that customer demands can be met. This included the launch of a LiveChat service on the website which allows customers to chat with advisors from their computer, phone or tablet. The service has proved very popular with usage increasing by 45% to over 500 chats per month during the final quarter of the year.

Customers are able to make enquiries in a number of ways and formats to suit individual needs and preferences. This includes phone, email, text, letter and in person by speaking to staff. There is also a simple feedback procedure which is published on the website allowing customers to give their views on services.

There are now over 1,400 followers to the South Tyneside Homes Facebook page, a significant increase on last year. Some posts have received a fantastic response. The launch of the 2018 apprenticeship scheme reaching 37,390 people with 963 comments and shares. We also maintain a Twitter presence.

Further improvements to Customer Services are planned for the coming year, including the launch of a new website which is much more user friendly. A new customer portal will also offer customers more information on their accounts and their property. An exciting new feature will also allow customers to book repairs online.

Tenancy Standard

What The Regulator Says Landlords Should Deliver Under This Standard

  • Allocate properties in a fair, transparent and efficient way
  • Enable tenants to gain access to opportunities to mutually exchange
  • Develop and provide services that will support customers to maintain their tenancy and prevent unnecessary evictions
  • Publish clear and accessible policies which outline their approach to tenancy management, including interventions to sustain tenancies

The Tenancy standard covers the following services. Please click below to see the relevant section, or read an overview of performance against this standard.

Housing Solutions

Housing Solutions

The newly formed Housing Solutions service is now fully operational following the merging of the Homefinder and Empty Homes teams. The Housing Solutions team provides customers with a single point of contact throughout the moving process. A new Allocations Policy has been introduced which will ensure that the organisation makes best use of the housing stock.

To better support customers, a new pre-tenancy support service has been introduced which aims to make sure that customers can afford their home before moving in. This helps to create sustainable tenancies and communities.

A new Homelessness Reduction Act was introduced which means that South Tyneside Homes and South Tyneside Council now need to work closely with internal and external partners to provide referral pathways and commitment to actively engage in tailored support, focussing on the prevention of homelessness.

I was very grateful to the Pre-Tenancy team and took the stress away from moving. They were really helpful and provided a great service.

John, South Shields resident

A number of processes have been improved to make things quicker and easier for customers. The average number of empty properties has reduced by a third from 215 to 152 during the year. This is now below the 1% target and means that there is less rent lost through the process.

In the coming year, new initiatives and changes will be introduced to further speed up the process for moving properties. Customers will be able to register an application and bid sooner and also sign their tenancy agreements online and move in earlier. The team will be looking to reduce the time taken to let a home following repairs and will look to increase the number of mutual exchanges which is often a quicker process to allow customers to move to a different property.

Rent Collection

Rent Collection

Last year 99% of rent was collected from customers with the level of rent arrears decreasing by £93,000. A number of improvements have been made to make sure that customers can pay their rent and contact staff quickly to discuss rent issues. This included the introduction of LiveChat to the service which provides customers with an additional contact method to discuss rent queries. Customers are now able to pay their rent via the Allpay app which can be downloaded onto any smartphone or tablet.

To support the team, new automated software has been introduced which automatically monitors rent accounts and identifies customers who have missed payments or who may be experiencing financial difficulties. This allows the staff to proactively contact customers who have not paid their rent or who may need increased support. The new system has reduced the number of calls to the team from 5,500 to 3,000 allowing staff to help customers who may need additional support.

In the next year, the Income and Welfare Support teams will continue to work closely to support customers who are affected by the introduction of Universal Credit. New technology will be trialled which will allow the team to automatically contact numerous customers allowing staff to deal with cases more efficiently. Increased focus will also be given to the collection of former tenant arrears to ensure that the organisation’s income is maximised.

Tenancy Support

Tenancy Support

Neighbourhood Officers carry out routine Tenancy Support Visits which provide customers with an opportunity to discuss how they are managing in their home and any issues which they may have. A new tailored approach has been developed which allows the team to identify customers who need help to maintain their homes. Last year 66 customers were provided with additional support. The success of this approach is helping to create sustainable communities.

During the severe weather in March 2018, over 4,000 customers were contacted to make sure that they were safe and well. Teams went the extra mile to provide assistance to those who were in need of help.

When the condition of a garden becomes an issue which customers do not address, enforcement action can be taken. 1099 Garden Tidy cases were dealt with last year helping to sustain communities and keep them clean and tidy.

In the coming year, further work will be carried out to ensure that teams across the organisation work together to support customers to keep their home in good condition as part of their responsibilities in their Tenancy Agreement.

Welfare Support

Welfare Support

The Welfare Support team secured over £3.8 million of additional income for customers last year through providing additional support to customers. New telephone advice appointments have been introduced which allows the team to provide more help and support to customers over the phone. This has reduced waiting times from 3-4 weeks to 2-3 weeks allowing customers to receive help, advice and support much quicker. The waiting time for processing community care applications has also reduced to 5 days from over 30 days as applications are now reviewed much faster.

The Welfare Support Team helped me with my benefit appeal and I won my case. I could not have done it without them.

Chris Milne, Jarrow resident

In the coming year, further improvements will be made to the service to provide better support to customers. This will include developing new checklists for customers allowing them to prepare for appointments and maximise the time that they have with staff. Self-help information will also be developed online which will allow customers to access support as quickly as possible at a time which suits them.

Following the introduction of Universal Credit in South Tyneside, Welfare Support staff will be available in local JobCentre Plus offices to support claimants. This will help customers to understand the new benefit system and help them in the transition as well as give them the opportunity to organise their finances and secure rent payments.

Home Standard

What The Regulator Says Landlords Should Deliver Under This Standard

  • Provide a cost-effective repairs and maintenance service to homes and communal areas
  • Provide a repairs service which has the objective of completing repairs and improvements right first time
  • Meet all applicable statutory requirements that provide for the health and safety of the occupants in their homes
  • Ensure that Homes meets the standard set out in the Government’s Decent Homes Guidance and continues to maintain properties to this standard
  • Provide an adaptations service that meets tenants’ needs

The Home standard covers the following services. Please click below to see the relevant section, or read an overview of performance against this standard.

Repairs and Maintenance

Repairs and Maintenance

The number of repairs carried out last year was reduced to 83,610 compared to over 102,000 the previous year. More work is now being delivered in planned programmes which is much more efficient. The repairs reporting process has been improved by changing the way in which condensation reports are dealt with to give more support to customers. This led to a reduction in the number of inspection appointments and anti-mould treatments carried out, allowing resources to be better used elsewhere.

As a result of the improvements to the repairs service, the average cost of a repair has been reduced from £78.17 to £74.10 including all parts and labour which shows that the team are delivering a more cost-effective service. At the same time, overall customer satisfaction increased from 85% to 91% at the end of the year. Customers now receive a text message following a repair to ask for their views on the service.

I recently reported a problem on my boiler. The operative who attended was very polite and professional – I was really impressed that the fault with the boiler was identified and fixed so quickly. I couldn’t thank them enough!

Mrs Nelson, South Shields resident

Customers can report repairs in a variety of ways, including by phone, text, email, writing or typetalk. To expand customer choice this year a new online reporting system will be introduced, allowing customers to book their own repairs and appointments online.

During the past year, repairs operatives received new handheld devices which have improved the reliability of the repairs system. In the next year, a new function will allow operatives to use their devices to raise any follow-up work while at the customer's home.

Gas Safety

Gas Safety

By law, South Tyneside Homes needs to check all gas appliances and pipework once a year. For the seventh year in a row, the Gas Servicing team completed an annual gas service at every property by offering a variety of appointments including evenings and weekends. Customer satisfaction was 86.30% at the end of the year and the team is aiming to increase this for the coming year.

New publicity and communication methods have been developed to increase awareness and make sure that customers understand the importance of the gas service and the possible impacts of not allowing access to their property. To further improve safety and advice to help customers stay safe in their homes, additional information about water safety and asbestos has also been published online. Visit Staying Safe.

Over the next year, an awareness campaign will take place to promote gas safety. Customers will also be given the option of receiving their annual gas certificate electronically which will make the service more efficient.

It is really important that you allow access to your property to complete an annual gas service. Please let the team in to complete your service – keeping your appointment keeps you safe! Last year, 19 customers were taken to court for not allowing access to their property which cost over £1,400 in legal costs which are recovered from customers.

Asset Management

Asset Management

A number of projects were completed last year in line with South Tyneside Homes’ Fuel Poverty plan which aims to tackle fuel poverty issues in South Tyneside. 401 roofs were replaced across South Tyneside with new loft insulation which helps customers to keep warm at home and save money. 60 properties also benefitted from a cavity wall insulation programme, following a successful grant application, which could save customers up to £145 per year on their heating bills. More programmes are being planned for the year ahead with a further 200 properties identified for this work.

The Asset Management team has introduced new computer software which will allow new planned maintenance programmes to be developed to ensure that properties can be maintained to a high standard and not fall into disrepair. Details of the new programmes will be communicated with customers in the future.

We had our old cavity insulation replaced with new insulation in the spring. The installers did a great job and were most helpful. There was no mess at all and no inconvenience to us. The house seemed warmer after the work and I am now looking forward to the winter!

Mrs G of Don Dixon Drive

Following the successful completion of Decent Homes, programmes will be developed in partnership with South Tyneside Council in the coming year to maintain and improve blocks of garages. This is more cost-effective than maintaining these individually. The team are also in the process of identifying further projects to improve blocks of flats across the borough.

Planned Maintenance and Adaptations

Planned Maintenance and Adaptations

Following the completion of the Decent Homes programme, a planned maintenance programme has been developed to keep properties at the Government’s standard. Last year, £2.2million was spent on planned maintenance work at 871 properties. This included replacing key property elements including kitchens, bathroom, windows and heating systems where required.

A total of 395 adaptations were installed in homes across South Tyneside last year including 54 wet rooms, 100 stair lifts and 21 ramps. This work involves working closely with South Tyneside Council’s Occupational Therapists to help customers to remain independent in their homes.

The team also completed their first new build development in Edhill Avenue, South Shields, where two bungalows and two apartments were delivered on behalf of South Tyneside Housing Ventures Trust in line with the programme. This brings in additional income to the organisation which is used to improve services. Another development in Fellgate, Jarrow is in progress which will consist of six new apartments. This work is important to improve areas and make sure that quality homes can be provided to customers.

In the coming year, some customer journey mapping will be carried out so that the team can understand customers’ experiences during major works. It is hoped that this will identify further areas for improvement in the service. New technology will also be introduced to improve efficiency which will allow resources to be maximised to provide additional programmes to customers to improve and maintain homes.

Neighbourhood and Community Standard

What The Regulator Says Landlords Should Deliver Under This Standard

  • Keep the neighbourhood and communal areas associated with the homes that they own clean and safe
  • Promote social, environmental and economic wellbeing
  • Co-operate with relevant partners to help promote social, environmental and economic wellbeing in the areas where they own properties
  • Publish a policy on how they work with relevant partners to prevent and tackle anti-social behaviour in areas where they own properties
  • Demonstrate strong leadership, commitment and accountability on preventing and tackling ASB which reflects a shared understanding of responsibilities with other local agencies

The Neighbourhood and Community standard covers the following services. Please click below to see the relevant section, or read an overview of performance against this standard.

Area Management

Area Management

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017, all fire safety processes and procedures for all blocks of flats have been independently reviewed by fire safety experts to ensure that residents are safe in their homes. Although all of this accommodation is safe, £1.4million will be spent over the next year to fit sprinkler systems in all high-rise accommodation following consultation with customers.

The council has been proactive on this and taken it in hand. I'm very pleased that the council is taking action. I'd rather have some disruption and save a life if the worst were to happen.

Peter Tallack, Durham Court resident

A number of locally funded environmental improvements have been delivered in partnership with residents and South Tyneside Council. This work included wall and fencing programmes, door and window replacements and painting programmes. This work will continue in 2018/19 and helps to improve neighbourhoods.

During the year, over 40 campaigns were delivered to address concerns around fly-tipping, litter and dog fouling. Neighbourhood Officers are able to issue Fixed Penalty Notices and five mobile cameras have been purchased to gather evidence which will be used to prosecute offenders. Through gathering evidence and by working in partnership with local residents led to a reduction in incidents by up to 95% in some areas which saved £12,000 in fly-tipping removal costs. Further work on this will be developed during the coming year to get local residents actively involved with these campaigns to ensure that people are proud of where they live.

Community Safety and Tenancy Enforcement

Community Safety and Tenancy Enforcement

The Tenancy Enforcement team continues to work in partnership with a number of organisations including Northumbria Police and Community Wardens to tackle and prevent anti-social behaviour in South Tyneside. Last year, the team dealt with 964 reported cases of anti-social behaviour, with 99.45% of cases responded to within timescale. Only 54 cases were re-referred within six months showing that the team deal with issues effectively first time.

There are a number of powers available to tackle anti-social behaviour. Last year, the team issued a total of 337 formal warning letters and 49 legal Notices Seeking Possession. There were also five evictions for anti-social behaviour which shows that this behaviour will not be tolerated.

A free smart phone app was trialled during 2017/18. This gives customers the ability to record noise nuisance on their personal devices and send directly to caseworkers. Following the success of the trial and positive feedback from customers, work is ongoing to introduce this permanently in the coming year. Evidence can be used to take enforcement action against culprits which will help residents to live in peaceful neighbourhoods.

I loved how easy the noise app was to use and it helped me prove my complaint.

Mrs A, South Shields resident

During 2018/19, customer groups will be carrying out some work with the team to improve the service ensuring that victims of anti-social behaviour are provided with effective help, support and advice when reporting issues.

Handy Estates

Handy Estates

Last year a total of 2,140 tonnes of waste was collected by the team from across South Tyneside which is 500 tonnes less than the previous year. This shows the success of some of the recent local campaigns which have been designed to educate and encourage residents to take pride in where they live. Handy Estates staff work in all weather conditions supporting local events including the festivals and concerts to make sure that the area is kept clean and tidy. During the poor weather in March 2018, the team literally “dug in” by clearing snow from footpaths, bridges, Housing Plus schemes and areas leading to schools.

The Handy Estates team also maintains the beaches in South Shields – this has resulted in a second season without any complaints and the beaches have been awarded Blue Flag status for the 12th successive year.

During 2018/19, there are plans to introduce a new reporting system to the service which will improve the way in which customers can report concerns. This will allow the team to gather more information which will help staff in dealing with issues as quickly as possible.

Following review, a pilot scheme is underway to trial new shift systems for staff within the team and initial feedback has been positive. The trial will be extended through the 2018/19 winter season to make sure that the team can continue to maintain areas effectively and meet residents’ expectations.

Housing Plus

Housing Plus

Housing Plus is a unique housing experience providing a safe, enjoyable, social and supportive environment to customers. During 2017/18, a variety of events have been held to showcase schemes and the range of social activities that are on offer to customers to prevent loneliness. This included open days and charity fundraising events.

One-to-one support and informal workshops in schemes have allowed residents to develop their computer skills, embrace new technology and use the free Wi-Fi to access the internet using their own personal devices from the comfort of their apartment. A total of 184 customers are regularly using free Wi-Fi in schemes and it is hoped that this will increase further during the coming year.

I love living at Cheviot House. There is a constant effort to make life easier by updating and implementing access to technology, such as smart TV, communal PC and Wi-Fi. Guidance and support is always available from our Housing Plus Officer.

Mr Hallowell, Cheviot House resident

There has been a lot of recent work carried out in Housing Plus schemes to ensure customer safety. This included the development of robust fire safety measures and new guidelines on safe use of mobility scooters in schemes. A programme was introduced to test all personal charging equipment for scooters to make sure that they remain safe for customers to use.

To improve the demand for Housing Plus accommodation in the coming year, the team will be reviewing grounds maintenance. This will make sure that schemes are attractive to current and potential customers. Further work will also be carried out to minimise the time Housing Plus apartments are empty between tenancies.

Performance

Customer Satisfaction
Service Area 2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Anti-Social Behaviour 93.9% 97% 94.2%
Gas Servicing 99.69% No data* 86.3%
Repairs 97.75% 89.03%* 91.02%

* The way in which satisfaction data is collected for this service changed during 2016/17.

Anti-Social Behaviour
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Number of ASB complaints 938 960 964
% of complaints responded to within timescale 99.61% 99.6% 99.45%
Complaints and Compliments
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Number of compliments received 489 497 464
Number of complaints received 964 844 678
Housing Solutions
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Number of empty properties at end of year 145 219 162*
Percentage of empty homes as proportion of housing stock 0.84% 1.27% 0.94%
Average re-let time 28.44 days 28.21 days 41.96 days**
Percentage of rent lost through re-let process 1.52% 1.4% 1.58%

* Following the introduction of the new service, the total number of empty properties reduced by 26% from the start of the year.

** During 2017/18 the service focused on letting properties which had been empty for an extended period of time. This impacted the overall average re-let time for the year, but now means our properties are empty for less time on average.

Rent Collection
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Proportion of rent collected (excluding arrears) 99.57% 99.77% 99%
Percentage of rent arrears 3.15% 2.97% 2.9%
Percentage of former tenant arrears 1.72% 2% 2.44%
Repairs
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18
Number of routine repairs 43,253 43,678 36,875
% of routine repairs delivered within 20 days 99.55% 99.59% 99.66%
Number of emergency repairs 13,727 15,057 14,526
% of emergency repairs delivered within 4 hours 99.36% 97.12% 97.63%
Number of urgent repairs 24,313 24,479 20,828
% of urgent repairs delivered within timescale 99.49% 99.64% 99.76%

To see how the company performed against the service standards, visit the performance page of the website.

Making Sense of the Money

Financial Overview

South Tyneside Homes manages around 18,000 homes on behalf of South Tyneside Council. In 2017/18 income was £64.9million. Below is an overview of how rent was spent during the year.

2016/2017 Spending
£64.9m 100%
Capital Charges 29.0 44.6%
Repairs and Maintenance 14.7 22.6%
Housing Management 11.3 17.5%
Central Services 4.6 7.0%
Rents, Rates and Taxes 2.4 3.7%
Estate Management 1.2 1.9%
Anti-social Behaviour 0.4 0.6%
Income Management 0.5 0.9%
Empty Homes 0.2 0.4%
Tenant Involvement 0.1 0.1%
Other 0.5 0.7%

Focus On Income

Most of the income comes from rent but tenants and leaseholders are also charged for services and facilities that South Tyneside Homes provides. The contributions come from various sources such as the fee for collecting water rates from tenants:

2017/2018 Income
£67.5m 100%
Property rents £62.7m 93.0%
Garage and shop rents £1.1m 1.6%
Charges for services and facilities £2.4m 3.5%
Contributions towards costs £1.3m 1.9%

Did you know, for every £1 of rent you pay...

  • 45p is paid out for capital charges (this is the interest paid on borrowing the money to provide the properties)
  • 23p is spent on repairing properties
  • 17p is spent on managing tenancies
  • 7p is spent on central services such as the warden call service
  • 4p is the cost of specialist housing services
  • 4p is spent on miscellaneous costs including rent, rates and taxes