24th Jun 2013

Better management of new home defects will help customers and save thousands, says authors of new 'Getting It Right' guide

Couple with keysA brand-new best practice guide has been launched for managing defects in new-build affordable housing.

The Getting it Right guide – available free at www.seddon.co.uk/downloads/Getting-It-Right-Defect-Guide.pdf- has been produced by national affordable housing developer Seddon and housing strategy specialist 3Dk Solutions. Designed to help registered providers, contractors and managing agents deal with defects in new-build homes more efficiently, it was developed through focus groups and consultations with registered providers.

Seddon director Nicola Hodkinson says: "Ideally, contractors should get it right first time on every job. But we have to be realistic and recognise that it is also essential to have an effective system in place for dealing with defects.

"Where the process is not managed well, it can cause huge stress and frustration for tenants - and potentially cost hundreds of thousands of pounds in both materials and time for registered providers, contractors and managing agents.”

 The guide’s advice includes:

-       Ensure open, honest and effective communication between registered providers, contractors and tenants

-       Help tenants understand how their home works by providing them with simple, concise Home User Guides and showing them how to operate boiler controls and devices such as flow restrictors. Brief registered provider management teams, direct labour organisations and call centre staff too so they can advise tenants.

-       Link key performance indicators for defects management to customer satisfaction and monitor them regularly

-       Clearly define what is and isn’t a defect. Seddon’s own experience is that one in three reported defects turned out not to belong in the defects category. Often routine repairs or even something as simple as a failed light bulb or tripped power switch are reported as defects.

-       Call centre staff should be helped to understand what a defect is (as opposed to a maintenance issue or a problem caused by another factor) and gather as much information as possible from tenants to ensure that contractors are not called out unnecessarily.

-       Contractors should aim for zero defects on all jobs and continually work to improve performance by analysing why defects have occurred and seeking to eliminate them on future jobs.

-       Contractors should communicate with tenants at every stage of dealing with a defect and offer residents a wide range of appointment times to avoid access problems.

-       Providers should also work with tenants to help them understand that some common problems are not dealt with through the defects process. For example, settlement cracks are usually dealt with at the end of the defect liability period.

-       Registered providers should consider having a trained ‘defects specialist’ who can help other staff, analyse any patterns in reported defects and work with contractors to identify solutions.

Peter Bojar, interim director of development at Great Places, welcomed the guide, calling it "simple, comprehensive and a good tool for the future”.

Seddon director Nicola Hodkinson says: "Moving into a brand-new home should be a positive and happy experience. The Getting it Right guide is available for all contractors and registered providers and sets out ideas for ensuring that new home defects are dealt with effectively and efficiently, at a time when it’s perhaps never been more essential for the industry to deliver value for money.”


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