Report by Ed Sheridan, Local Democracy Reporter
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 for Improvement, which has long been the topic of debate at town hall meetings over poor satisfaction rates from residents, is required to carry out repairs ahead of the end of its 16-year contract.
A council survey identified £466,000-worth of work to be done but, because of 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%, but 100% was always going to be a real challenge.”
The council holds two contracts with Partners for Improvement. While one is set to end in April, another is a 30-year contract not ending until 2033.
In the council survey, broken windows, damp and roofing issues account for 59% of problems, but surveyors also found cracked ceilings and walls, broken boilers, missing wash basins, damaged floors and front entrance doors, plus 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 the town hall planning to hold on to its reimbursement cash for a couple of months after Partners for Improvement 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 was written, 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 for Improvement said: “We encourage residents to report repairs, as we have throughout the first 15 years of the 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 council spokesperson said: “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 contract in April 2022, we are encouraging all residents to report any necessary repairs to Partners [for Improvement] as soon as possible.”