Guestblog: Ward Hadaway – Disrepair

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In its guest blogs, NHC Supporter Ward Hadaway offers the legal perspective and some guidance on some of the social housing sector’s most pressing issues. In this edition: disrepair.

Asset management is a fundamental issue for Registered Providers – the quality and quantity of their housing stock have a direct impact upon their finances and reputation. Many providers have reliable and robust procedures in place to ensure that their properties are maintained (and improved where appropriate) on both a reactive and proactive basis.

However, ever-decreasing budgets and increasing financial constraints, coupled with large portfolios, means that sometimes maintenance matters do ‘slip through the net’ and are not dealt with as quickly or efficiently as they might otherwise be.

Disrepair claims in these circumstances are nothing new. However, up until around 2011 these were largely dealt with under Legal Aid or in the context of counterclaims (for example, where a tenant had been taken to Court because of significant rent arrears). Now that the scope for Legal Aid has been whittled down, disrepair claims are commonly funded by Conditional Fee (“No Win No Fee”) Agreements. The significance of this is disrepair claims can be harder to resolve by way of practical solutions where the tenant’s solicitor has a vested interest in the claim – particularly the payment of their costs by the landlord.

Even in fairly severe cases (which are relatively few and far between) it is uncommon for compensation in disrepair cases to exceed £10,000. However, legal costs (on both sides) can quickly exceed this amount – often, the parties’ legal costs significantly outweigh any compensation the tenant might claim. In 2016, a disrepair claim settled at trial for just £2,000 – however the landlord was ordered to pay £25,000 on account of the tenant’s legal costs, pending an assessment of those costs by the Court (and the tenant’s solicitors made a further (albeit unsuccessful) application for a further payment on account of their costs of £80,000).

As always, prevention in these circumstances is better than the cure. Time and money that is invested in ensuring you have reliable systems in place to log and raise repairs and keeping detailed notes as to the progress made and completion of those works will be well spent if it means that disrepair claims can be fended off quickly and at an early stage. One of the key factors for a successful system is to make sure frontline staff receive adequate training around disrepair. They should be taught the importance of logging and raising repairs (and providing adequate detail), the process that must be followed upon receipt of a disrepair claim, the time limits that apply and the potentially costly consequences that might follow if this is not done.

For those matters that might slip through the net, the same systems can be used to identify problem cases at an early stage and allow landlords to take a commercial view as to the merits of early settlement, balancing the potential costs of litigation and compensation against any reputational risks.

These issues can appear confusing or daunting. However, the process can be simplified through an understanding of how disrepair claims arise in the first place and the structure of a claim. Ward Hadaway and the NHC will hold its first Disrepair conference on 21st November 2017 at The Studio, Leeds where we will present a number of workshops discussing both the practical and legal aspects of disrepair claims in order to give you the tools and confidence to prevent, and deal with those claims.

For further information, please contact Howard Walker, PR Manager at Ward Hadaway, on 0191 204 4446 or

Guestblog: Abode – Back to Basics?

Building on the leadership and management training opportunities running over the next few months, the NHC has partnered with Abode – the home of education and training for the housing and community sectors, to offer three new courses designed specifically for those on the frontline of housing management. Here, Abode training consultants Gill Bramfitt and Claire Harvey talk us through why, when it comes to the housing sector, now is the time to get back to basics.

In recent months the housing sector has seen a renewed focus on what could be considered the bread and butter of housing management. Those core features that make up the landlord-tenant relationship that may have been taken for granted in the past have now returned to the forefront. While all housing associations have responded to organisational challenges in ways which meet their own individual circumstances, all agree it is more important than ever that rents are collected effectively, arrears kept to a minimum, voids turned around quickly, and repairs carried out efficiently.

On top of this, a new Parliament means housing management officers are again faced with getting to grips with new and evolving legislation. This means not only having to make sense of policies before implementing them, but having to explain them to tenants and customers. Welfare Reform for example, has many implications for allocations, arrears and support staff, while the range of new tenancy types and the obligations placed on landlords can leave heads spinning.

It is vital that frontline staff have the knowledge and skills to tackle these potential obstacles. Organisations will know the importance of ensuring that legislation is interpreted correctly, policies comply with requirements and are less open to challenge, all without impacting on levels of customer satisfaction. Well-trained, knowledgeable employees will also have the confidence to implement these changes and deliver good quality services in an increasingly pressurised environment.

Working with the NHC, we have developed a range of courses to meet these needs. Delivered throughout November and December, these sessions will equip staff and supervisors with the knowledge and skills to meet current and future challenges.

Our first course, Introduction to Providing Housing Services, delivers exactly that. Looking at the different types of housing organisations in the UK, the diverse range of services they provide, and the financial and regulatory environment in which they exist, this course is ideal for anyone looking to gain a background knowledge of affordable housing provision in this country.

Similarly, Tenancy Management Essentials is a primer for those wanting to ensure their knowledge of tenancy management is up to date and accurate.  Looking closely at recent legislative changes and the tenancy types they affect, this course will underline the responsibilities of landlords and tenants as well as discussing issues such as terminating tenancies and dealing with abandoned properties.

Finally, we have prepared our Developing Housing Policies and Procedures course with all those involved in the policy process in mind. This interactive half-day session will cover all stages of policy development from formulating policies and procedures, implementing them, and monitoring their effectiveness. This session will also look at the wider landscape of developing policy, from using data sources to inform strategies to knowing how and when to involve stakeholders.

Available to book now:

Introduction to Providing Housing Services – 15th November 2017, Leeds

Developing Housing Policies and Procedures – 30th November 2017, Leeds

Tenancy Management Essentials – 6th December 2017, Manchester


For further information please contact Gill Bramfitt or Claire Harvey at or call 07966 367086.

First APPG meeting of the new Parliament announced

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Housing in the North will meet on Wednesday, 18th October 2017 for the first time in the new Parliament.

The APPG remains a vital part of the NHC’s work to represent member’s views at the highest levels of Parliament and government. As Secretariat to the group, the NHC uses the APPG to raise issues of concern and initiate debate. Most recently, the group has been key in promoting and gaining support for the findings of our Commission for Housing in the North which, through close consultation with our members and industry leaders, put forward recommendations on what is needed to address the housing challenges faced in the Northern regions.

The APPG for Housing in the North was established as a forum for parliamentarians to look closely at the impact of housing policy in the North and to set an agenda that addresses the needs and ambitions of our communities. As members will know, the challenges faced in the North require a more nuanced response to the housing crisis which has until recently centred on building more homes. Increasing supply is one part, but our region requires a greater balance between building homes and revitalising the assets we already have.

With this in mind, the theme for this meeting is regeneration. How can we reconnect the areas that have fallen behind to the growing economic opportunities that exist in surrounding towns and cities? Moderated by the APPG’s Chair-Designate Ian Mearns MP, a range of guest speakers will discuss the transformative projects they have been involved in across the North East, North West, and Yorkshire and Humber. Together, the group will continue the work being done to underline just why regeneration is important to the North and understand how those best placed to deliver this change can be brought together to do so.

The next meeting of the APPG for Housing in the North will take place Wednesday 18th October 2017.  Meeting Notes will be published on the NHC website’s dedicated page or look out for our APPG Recap in a future edition of the eZine.

DCLG Secretary announces “wide-ranging” green paper on social housing

The Government will publish a “wide-ranging” green paper on social housing, the communities secretary announced this week.

Speaking at the National Housing Federation (NHF) annual conference on Tuesday, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid said it is clear there needs to be a “fundamental rethink of social housing in this country”.

The green paper will be a “wide-ranging, top-to-bottom review” of the issues facing the social housing sector and will be the “most substantial report of its kind for a generation”, he said. It is intended to “kick off a nationwide conversation on social housing – what works and what doesn’t work, what has gone right and what has gone wrong”.

The green paper will not only look at the safety of social housing following the Grenfell Tower fire, it will also cover the quality of social homes, “many of which are now beginning to show their age”, Mr Javid said.

It will include a look at the management of social homes, the rights of tenants and how complaints are handled.

Mr Javid said the green paper would not be “rushed” because it would take time to get this “substantial piece of work” right.  He admitted that “successive governments” have not done enough to take social housing “seriously”.

The Government will seek the views of tenants alongside the views of housing associations and other stakeholders. The NHC is delighted to be facilitating a landlord and tenant engagement session on Thursday, 26th October in York with Alok Sharma MP, Minister of State for Housing and Planning. The Minister will speak directly with social tenants, to hear their views and to help build a picture of the common concerns that can help inform a national approach going forward.

For more information on the DCLG landlord and tenant engagement session on 26th October, please contact Member Engagement Manager Callum Smith  or call 0191 566 1029.

Housing’s role in the Northern Powerhouse

On 7th September, the NHC facilitated a members’ roundtable session (hosted by Newcastle City Council) with Jake Berry, Northern Powerhouse Minister, when he visited the North East. The Minister was keen to emphasise his commitment to the devolution agenda and his passion for the role as a Northerner, and talked enthusiastically about the need to build a compelling narrative for the ‘whole North’.

Members’ discussed some of the challenges faced, including inefficient legacy stock, skills shortages, pressures on supported housing, and the need for regeneration to reconnect economically isolated communities. There was recognition of the many untapped market opportunities and the desire and will amongst members to do more if some of the key levers could be put in place – such as longer term funding programmes, rent certainty, and pump-priming for more challenging sites. The Minister acknowledged the need for regeneration and emphasised the combined importance of housing, skills, jobs and transport, describing the potential offered by Transport for the North’s 20-year plan as ‘transformative’.

The Minister also encouraged members to come forward with ideas that would help drive growth in house building, and for suggestions that would address the issue of graduate retention across the North, as well as evidence around the threats posed by changes to funding for supported housing. The NHC is happy to collate any evidence or suggestions that Members wish to put forward to the Minister – please email Senior Policy Adviser Karen