This matter is the responsibility of the Portfolio Holder for Housing, Cllr Francesca Smith.
Report Author: Ian Candlish, Assistant Director Housing Property
This report provides an updated position for the main landlord health and safety property compliance disciplines.
Ian Candlish, Assistant Director Housing Property presented the report:
· The report is in same format as previous reports.
· Generally speaking, lots of positive progress in all areas but still some challenges in terms of resources available in some of the specialist areas.
· Report gives details on some of the issues we have been addressing recently.
· Page 147 - item 4.2.9 electrical dwelling inspections. Overall electrical compliance is 100% except for the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) dwellings. There have been issues with resources with this area but we now have a new contract which has increased the number of electricians available. Also issues with access arrangements and tenants being willing to let us in. We have done some work with housing colleagues on the hard to access issues. We have increased the programme end date to get us back to the 100% compliance. Doing weekly monitoring to ensure we meet the target.
· Page 147 item 4.2.10 portable appliance testing (PAT) just to advise that since the report was written compliance is now 100%.
· Page 151 item 4.3.9 the general fund on emergency lighting, since writing the report compliance is now at 100%.
· Page 152 item the general fund properties on gas safety – since writing the report that has reached 100% compliance.
· Page 156 this is an area that is new to the committee and relates to Radon safety. Item 4.8.5 notes that a pilot programme on Radon safety monitoring devices has now been completed as well. The balance of the programme will be undertaken in February 2023.
· Page 156 item 4.9 is a new item for the committee and relates to street lighting. We previously advised that a survey was being undertaken on our street lighting on our HRA owned land. The survey has now been done and we are waiting for the data for the electrical and structural safety of the columns. Will be able to provide the committee with an update on the outcome of the survey at the next meeting.
· Page 157 item 4.10 smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. The report gives a brief overview on what the requirements are, and just to advise we are fully compliant on that area with all alarms already installed.
During the debate, discussion took place around:
· Concern about the excuse of not being able to get entry into properties to carry out important safety checks with the report suggesting that over 1,000 properties need to have electrical safety checks completed. The officer confirmed that it is a mix of being behind schedule, due to the shortage of electricians and also the non-access problem.
· The need to ensure that the Unitary Council has enough electricians available to carry out the required works and compliance checks.
· The meetings with housing and tenants regularly discuss accessing properties for safety checks, and the different tenant representatives working to encourage tenants in their area to let the workman in.
· Response repairs are carried out on electrical issues as they get reported. Defects get dealt with that way on a reactive basis.
· The fact that the electrical safety programme got behind during the Coronavirus pandemic as the activity of undertaking an electrical installation test in a dwelling is quite intrusive as you have to go throughout the property, and it takes a few hours compared to gas servicing which is normally in one room and might only take half an hour.
· Hardship issues such as hoarding and complex needs are being identified in some cases where access is problematic. We look to try to be supportive and respond to those as part of an access arrangement.
· There is a national shortage of electricians. We previously used seven contractors but some of the smaller providers weren’t able to deliver so we have gone back to two main larger providers, and it continues to be a high priority for us.
· Accessing properties is a general problem for all compliance checks and messaging is included in every edition of the tenant’s newsletter
· Whether being fully compliant by the end of the financial year means by the 1 April 2023? Officers confirmed that they are looking to get as close to 100% compliant before the end March 2023.
· Legally whether we have to give the tenants an electrical safety certificate?
· Whether the shortage of electricians has budgetary implications due to having to use a big supplier and they are working to get the job done quickly. The officer confirmed that a provision for ongoing safety checks is included in the HRA Business Plan. The electrical contract is for multiple years so it will pick up the programme. We are going from a 10-year cycle on the frequency of testing to a 5-year cycle, which the Government are likely to introduce through legislation in 2023. Electrical safety checks continue in the same way that other testing such as gas testing does. It will be included in the business plan as a top priority in terms of budget. We have our recent contract which will go forward into future years, but we also have our own in-house electrical team who primarily deal with response repairs, works in voids, etc. we are looking to grow the team but we have vacancies there as the marketplace for electricians in particularly challenging at the moment.
· What compartmentalisation is. Officers confirmed that compartmentalisation relates to fire safety. It is the splitting up a large building into compartments e.g. fire doors in the corridors which would split up the building. 100% completion of fire risk assessments being carried out. Working on completing the recommended remedial actions to demonstrate that compartmentalisation is in place. Currently there are two contracts progressing and completing this work. First is putting in new fire doors and the second is where there are more individual areas that need checking e.g. going into roof space to check no openings there. Blocking gaps up to stop spread of fire.
· Whether compartmentalisation is a statutory requirement. The officer confirmed that it’s a standard in the fire safety sector and built into building regulations for new buildings. It is effectively a statutory requirement as it comes out of the fire risk assessment which is a requirement, and remedial actions would have to be undertaken.
· Whether compartmentalisation is also applicable for repairs to any buildings existing buildings. The officer confirmed it would be if a refurbishment was being carried out. If a workman was drilling a hole in a property to insert new pipework, they would have to seal up any gap around the pipe to stop the spread of hot gases and flames.
· Given the fact that there are some areas where further updates are due, whether a further update report is added to the agenda for the March Committee meeting. Members confirmed that an email update would suffice and that this would be included in the tracker for the March meeting.
· Arrangements for the new Council and confirmation from officers that a Building Resident Safety Strategy is going through SCC. This is a combined document covering all of the housing stock (SWT and Sedgemoor). It will clarify our approach, our responsibilities, some key appointments but one thing it will also do is recommend some performance indicators for the new council. Approval before vesting day will ensure that the top six areas of compliance will be headline corporate indicators for the new Council. That ensures the proper governance will be in place and that members have the proper sight and oversight of indicators coming through.
The Committee resolved to note the contents of the report and progress being made in relation to landlord property safety compliance.
(proposed by Cllr Janet Lloyd; seconded by Cllr Simon Coles)