Berneslai Homes’ ‘void standard’ - a document which sets out the minimum lettable standard that all of its housing stock has to meet before a tenant moves in - came under fire after multiple councillors claimed they had witnessed ‘shocking’ cases.
Berneslai Homes manages void properties on behalf of the council, although the actual repair work is done through a contract being delivered by its own construction services team and Kier.
According to a progress report, all completed voids are checked to ensure they meet the standard and a number of teams ‘monitor performance and process’.
Coun Wayne Johnson, who represents the Stairfoot ward, said: “I’ve been involved in a case recently where I was asked to look at an asylum seeker’s accommodation and I have to say I’m absolutely amazed that the property was handed over.
“This person had no income or capacity to improve its standard and there seems to be a requirement to turn void stock around quickly. The jobs which are required are then done after a tenant’s moved in, despite it not being up to standard.
“In some cases it’s up to eight weeks after the move-in date and we’re talking about major, disruptive work. Vulnerable people aren’t in a position to cope with that and I think standards have been sacrificed in an attempt to get the void figures down to cut costs and drive up income.
“Subsequently the pressure is placed on a tenant to take a property they wouldn’t normally accept and we need to look at this. If I let one in some of the states I’ve seen, I would be pursued by the council and quite rightly so.”
The report added that a separate independent review process is also carried out by a panel of existing tenants, who inspect a random selection of properties prior to letting to ensure standards.
Since 2011, about 1,000 properties per year have been refurbished and the report says ‘housing stock is therefore generally in good condition’.