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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Home Group in firing line over tenants’ complaints

ANGRY Copeland councillors have launched a scathing attack on social landlords Home Group.

They claim it is failing to carry out essential repairs and maintenance work as unhappy residents complain about heating, gas and flooding problems.

The comments were made at a meeting of Copeland’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee after a Home Group representative said an independent customer service survey showed increasing numbers of customers were satisfied with its maintenance work.

Louise Barkes, deputy head of customer service at Home Group, said: “We use Explain, one of the UK’s leading independent market research companies, to measure our levels of customer satisfaction. In the North West, 90 per cent of customers are satisfied with overall repairs and 99 per cent are happy with gas repairs. We’re working really hard to achieve 100 per cent and will work with our contractor, customers and councillors to get there.”

But councillors disputed the statistics and said clarity was needed on Copeland’s figures.

Committee chairman John Kane said: “I am aware that people in my patch are not satisfied. The issue we have is that people have to wait a long time for the repairs and maintenance that is needed. I’m sure people are satisfied once the work is done.”

Numerous councillors echoed his concerns and said customers complain that Home says work is completed when it is not.

The social landlord contracts work to Willmott Dixon, which deals with repairs, maintenance and gas call-outs.

Coun Fee Wilson said: “It’s not Home Group or Willmott Dixon that get the heartache or the earache when people don’t have work done – it’s us. We want to try to help, that’s why we were elected.”

Mrs Barkes said emergency repairs are looked at within six hours, urgent repairs within three working days, and routine call-outs 14 days. She said work has been carried out to ensure that jobs are followed through from the initial call-out to completion.

Coun Kane said elderly residents contacted him in December after a fire alarm went off in a block of town centre flats. He said a workman from Burnley had to travel to Whitehaven to switch the alarm off – eight hours later.

Home Group said the issue is being looked at.

Coun Sam Pollen said the perception he gets from Home customers is that work is not being done. He raised concerns about continued flooding problems in Egremont, an uncapped mine shaft in the town and garages being demolished at Orgill. He was told that of the occupied garages, 148 are rented by private householders, with 31 rented by Home customers. The income they generate no longer covers the cost of repairs. Mrs Barkes said it wouldn’t be right to take money away from housing repairs budget to spend on fixing garages used by a small minority.

About the flooding, she said work is being carried out to tackle the issues. Members were told that a bridge will need to be put in place before any work can be carried out on the mineshaft.

Councillors raised other concerns about gas and boiler problems and plaster coming off walls in a family’s home.

After the meeting, Mrs Barkes said: “The overwhelming majority of our customers in the North West tell us we provide a good service. As with any business, a small but vocal minority will be unhappy. While these cases attract the attention of councillors, it is unfair to our hard-working staff and misleading to the public to claim they are representative of the hundreds of repairs we carry out each week.”

The survey figures relates to December’s results. Explain randomly selects Home customers who have had work completed during the month.

Have your say

I live in a part own part share flat through Home Group. I have been waiting 10 days for a surveyor from Home Group to contact me about a damp patch that has appeared on my bedroom ceiling. I understand from the Housing Officer they are arguing amongst 3 departments who should be dealing with my query. I pay my rent and community charge on time. It frustrates me why things should take this long. This hasnt been the only issue either. If I knew all this when buying shared owner ship I would never have bothered

Posted by Louise Grant on 20 February 2014 at 13:32

I've had trouble getting repairs done for nearly four years, I was left with a cellar with 2 inch of sewage for two years before Home Group sorted it out. I'm currently having repairs and improvements done but they're only getting done because I got Enviromental Health involved and contacted a disrepair solicitor. Take a look and some photos I've taken in recent weeks. http://frank.deget.net/This_is_how_much_Home_Group_Housing_Association_care

Posted by Frank on 19 February 2014 at 11:57

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