Disrepair: we need to talk about the quiet housing crisis.
Once housing providers are made aware of disrepair, they need the tools and talent at their disposal to take action. That’s where a robust supply chain and work order management solution comes in.
With skyrocketing interest rates and thousands of mortgage products being pulled from the market, commentators are rightly focusing on the housing market. Rising mortgage payments have the potential to slash the value of properties, while rents are likely to rise in line with landlord’s increasing costs.
There is, however, another housing crisis that requires immediate attention—disrepair. Units deteriorate over time, leading to structural issues, faulty utilities, leaks, damp, and infestations. Left unchecked, these problems only escalate. This presents a considerable threat to tenants’ physical and mental wellbeing, as well as the financial security of private landlords and social housing providers.
The severity of disrepair in utilities, especially in winter, can impact necessities like heating and hot water. Moreover, issues such as damp and mould worsen as we enter the cooler months of the year. For vulnerable residents, and those with pre-existing health conditions, this can become critical very quickly.
This quiet crisis is a major concern for housing providers. There could be cases of disrepair that are not being addressed across their portfolio. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted regular repairs, reducing in-person visits to properties and disrupting supply chains. OECD data shows that maintenance and construction output was reduced by as much as 40%. Now, housing providers must tackle this backlog with a proactive approach to disrepair.
The cost of disrepair.
While the full scale of the crisis is hard to quantify, disrepair cases are undeniably on the rise. In 2021 Lambeth London Borough reported that housing disrepair claims had risen by 600% over four years. Not only has the frequency of claims increased, but so too have the costs: these rose by 53% across the UK in 2020-2021, when compared to 2017-2018.
As the temperature drops in the winter months, so does the risk of water pipes freezing and bursting as they thaw. The disrepair resulting from this is often not localised to one area, and quickly makes a property uninhabitable when left unaddressed. Boilers that are not inspected or serviced in time for the season can create similarly unlivable conditions for older tenants - which landlords can struggle to reactively repair. Not repairing or inspecting roofs before any seasonal storms can also exacerbate drainage and guttering issues on the outside of a property, creating further leaks, damp and mould that tenants can rightfully report as disrepair.
Tenants can claim compensation based on the extent of disrepair and any harm to themselves or damage to their property. In extreme cases in which housing is deemed uninhabitable, tenants can claim 100% of rent in compensation. As defined by the Homes Act of 2018, housing is deemed unfit for habitation if it is defective to the point where its condition could cause tenants serious harm. If no action is taken, total compensation can run to as much as £10,000.
Beyond compensation, housing providers must also shoulder legal fees and the cost of repairs themselves. Disrepair can be complex, requiring specialist contractors who are able to address specific issues. The costs of professional help can add up, so it’s best to tackle disrepair head on with regular checks and maintenance. Fortunately, technology can enable housing providers to streamline their approach.
Getting to grips with the quiet crisis.
Addressing disrepair starts with visibility. Relying on the occasional inspection and manual reporting processes can lead to issues slipping through the cracks. Instead, housing providers should invest in a property management platform that provides a single source of truth to inform decision-making. This golden thread gives them the real-time information they need to monitor the health of their portfolio, from records of safety and compliance checks to an auditable trail of previous works conducted. The use of such technology creates a more seamless inspections process and can ensure the proactive maintenance of pipes, boilers, radiators and roofing when temperatures fall.
Tenants have a vital role to play here too. After all, they inspect their accommodation on a daily basis. They need to be empowered to report faults and request repairs directly. Plentific’s unified platform offers seamless, instant communication between landlords and tenants, with self-serve features, guided issue diagnosis, fast fault reporting, and feedback prompts. This improves both response times and tenant satisfaction and can lead to issues being addressed before they get out of hand.
Fixing the problem.
Ultimately, the solution to disrepair is simple—repairs. Once housing providers are made aware of disrepair, they need the tools and talent at their disposal to take action. That’s where a robust supply chain and work order management solution comes in.
For maximum operational efficiency, providers need to be able to manage their internal teams and skilled local tradespeople via a single platform. No matter the nature of the disrepair reported, they can rapidly source quotes from available contractors and dramatically reduce both the time taken and the cost associated with repairs. With Plentific’s marketplace, landlords save 54% when compared to using external contractors and the average time taken to complete a disrepair order from raise to repair is just 72 hours.
Disrepair can’t always be avoided entirely. But with the right technology at their disposal housing providers can be reactive enough to minimise the hardship experienced by tenants, and the compensation they are liable to pay.
What are you waiting for?
Plentific’s end-to-end platform can help you monitor, maintain, report and prevent repairs from becoming disrepairs. Plentific integrates with other platforms, including MRI and Yardi to enhance your current offerings.
Book a hassle-free consultation with us today.