Tenants’ watchdog panel publishes new report on decoration allowances

Release Date: 08-Aug-2013
A panel of tenants and residents set up to scrutinise housing services in Kirklees has just finished its third review, which looked at issues relating to decoration allowances given to tenants when they move into a new home.

The panel of volunteers, which is run by the Kirklees Federation of Tenant and Resident Associations (KFTRA), is part of a national drive to make sure landlords continue to provide quality services to their customers, now that government inspections have been abolished.

As well as looking at surveys of new tenants and talking to staff from Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing (KNH), which manages council homes, panel members also looked at what other housing providers do and visited a number of properties to gather information for the review.

Decoration allowances in the form of a B&Q gift card are given to tenants whose new homes are considered to need decorating – generally because of fresh plastering or other repairs. If the decoration is in reasonable condition, even if it is not to the taste of the new tenant, they will not receive an allowance.

The panel’s research found that not all housing organisations provide allowances so they were pleased to have such a scheme in Kirklees. They were also generally happy with the current arrangement with B&Q, which provides cashback to KNH, which in turn helps fund a handyperson scheme for new, young, older and disabled tenants.

However, the panel made a number of recommendations to improve the scheme, which KNH have agreed to. These include

- Continuing the decoration allowance in the absence of an alternative scheme, but reviewing the amount to see if it needs to be or can be increased. Unlike allowances which follow necessary repairs, the decorating allowance has not changed for several years and is not mandatory.

- Considering a pilot to decorate empty homes in neutral colours before tenants move in, possibly using local suppliers and labour, working in partnership with a local social enterprise or working with unemployed people to give them training and skills that they can then use to become self-employed.

- Making the scheme more consistent

- Extending the time that the handyperson service is available to new tenants who are having repairs carried out

- Making sure tenants know about any planned improvements to their homes so they can make a judgement about when to decorate

Speaking on behalf of the panel, Chair Rod McInnes said: “We’ve enjoyed the experience of working on this report. It’s taken a lot of our time, but we feel that it is worthwhile if it improves services to tenants.

“Once again, we are pleased that KNH has responded to our recommendations in such a positive way. Although two of our suggestions cannot be taken further, we recognise the reasons why and welcome the willingness of KNH to work with panel members on further improving elements of the service.”

Simon Rogers, Chief Executive of KNH, said: “The tenant scrutiny process is making an invaluable contribution to our objective of providing quality services to customers.

“Reviewing services with a much stronger tenant perspective ensures that any changes made are ones that tenants want and will value. We are working with the panel to ensure that we act on their recommendations so that their personal hard work and commitment is reflected in changes that make a real difference to the lives of tenants.”

To find out more or to get involved, please contact KFTRA on 01484 223466