Raise repair concerns before homes handed back to council, housing association tenants told

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Citizen

Islington Council is urging tenants of homes managed by housing association Partners for Improvement to raise damp or disrepair issues before the handback of thousands of properties to the Town Hall in April next year.

Partners, who have long been the topic of debate at Town Hall meetings over satisfaction rates of its residents, are required to carry out repairs ahead of the end of the 16-year contract.

A council survey has identified £466,000 worth of work to be done, but due to the pandemic was only able to access 1,254 of the 2,778 properties, meaning the actual amount is likely to be significantly greater.

The value of these repairs will be held by the borough in a retention fund until all are completed and signed off. The cost of any repairs not completed by the time the council takes over will stay in the fund.

Programme manager Saf Khan said: “We wanted to get into as many basement flats as we possibly could as we know there are concerns around damp particularly in street properties.

“Getting into those properties was the challenge. The pandemic did not help at all. We were hoping for much higher than 45 per cent, but 100 per cent was always going to be a real challenge.”

Islington holds two contracts with Partners. While PFI 2 is set to end in April, PFI 1 is a 30-year contract ending in 2033.

In the council survey, broken windows, damp and roofing issues account for 59 per cent of problems, but surveyors also found cracked ceilings and walls, broken boilers, missing wash basins, damaged floors and front entrance doors, and more.

Window-related works are the most common problem and will cost £70,535 in total, with 398 individual works required at 270 homes, with windows missing restrictors, stays, locks, catches, handles and draught seals.

Damp was discovered in 265 homes, with Islington planning to hold on to its reimbursement cash for a couple of months after Partners make a repair job in this area, to make sure the problem does not recur.

At a council meeting this week, resident observer Rose-Marie McDonald asked: “What about the homes that are really suffering from draughts and bad heating? We need to do something about that for the whole of the stock. Is there a way while contacting tenants and leaseholders we can ascertain what is going on there?

“This is brought up again and again. People are really suffering through this pandemic with problems with heating and feeling warm in their homes. These homes are not the Decent Home Standard at all, because they are not warm and comfortable.”

Officers responded that when the contract were written with Partners, energy efficiency was “much lower down the agenda”, though the Town Hall has now secured Green Homes funding to insulate some street properties.

A representative from Partners said: “We encourage residents to report repairs as we have throughout the first 15 years of the PFI2 contract including in every quarterly residents’ newsletter. We’d like to thank residents for their help in this.

“We’re pleased that the housing scrutiny committee heard from the council’s independent surveying consultant that the properties are being handed back to the council in better than average condition with among the lowest proportion of catch-up repairs they have ever seen.”

A spokesperson for Islington Council added:  “Bringing these homes back under council management will allow the council to put customer satisfaction and quality service provision at the heart of repairs and maintenance.

“Ahead of the conclusion of Partners contract in April 2022, we are encouraging all residents in PFI2 properties to report any necessary repairs to Partners as soon as possible.”

Update: this article was amended at 10:25 on 22 April 2021 to include a comment from Partners for Improvement.