Five signs your repairs service isn’t delivering value for money

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An efficient, cost effective and reliable repairs service should be an essential component of every organisation. It can provide a number of benefits to you, as a housing provider, and to your tenants.

Expenditure on repairs is a significant spend area for all housing providers but there are big variations in cost, performance and quality reported in the sector. Data published by the HCA this year has shown an increasing disparity in the annual repair costs providers are incurring. Whilst it may be apparent that high costs represent inefficiency and less value for money, the real crux of the challenge is identifying both the cause of these costs and the contributing factors.

Recognising the signs and understanding their significance is the first step towards delivering better value for money.

  1. High repair cost per unit

Identifying and evaluating both your own repair costs and those of similar comparable housing providers establishes an important point of reference. The cost per unit data published by the HCA provides insight into what is being spent on repairs and can be utilised to better understand where you sit relative to the market. A high relative annual cost per unit could be an indication that your service isn’t delivering value for money and an inability to remain within sight of other comparable providers may suggest a need to drive change and make improvements.

  1. High number of complaints

Repairs are one of the most important services you provide to your tenants and if provided well, one of the most valued. Feedback from tenants is therefore a powerful tool in understanding if your service is effective. A high number of complaints would suggest it is not. From the complaints it is important to identify common themes which suggest inefficiency. For example, are workers attending their appointments? Are there a high number of defects? Are there sufficient resources and do workers have sufficient skills?

  1. Low level of right first time

Tying in closely with the number of complaints is the number of right first time visits provided to tenants. A high number of call backs suggests a poor level of service either due to the quality of the contractors themselves, the standards they are working to, or both. Often a “quick fix” approach is taken with repairs (and “quick finish” with planned work) which reduces the initial cost but means the job will need redoing soon after. Taking the time to fully understand an issue and provide a permanent/long term fix (and finish) can be much more cost effective in the long run. Finding the right balance for your organisation between quality and cost is essential to ensuring maximum value for each pound spent.

  1. High number of repairs

Failing to achieve the optimum balance between cost and quality, as well as reactive and planned investment will also be reflected in a high number of repairs. Reducing quality to cut costs is a short term solution which can create a long term problem. Low quality repairs and a reduction in planned maintenance work may save money initially but can have a number of knock on effects including a culmination of high cost repairs further down the line and low levels of tenant satisfaction. Providers who treat their repairs and maintenance as an investment in stock as well as a service to clients have seen a fall in complaints as well as evidencing long term value for money.

  1. Low productivity

The time taken to complete a job, missed appointments, low first time fix/right first time performance and ineffective scheduling and communication are all contributors to low productivity. As a result of one, or all of these issues, the number of jobs completed per day is adversely affected. Streamlining your planning, scheduling and your site operation by putting the right people with the requisite skills and training in the right places at the right time will ensure you get the most from your team and can positively impact your value for money.

As a specialist housing consultant we help housing providers understand and better deliver their repairs services. For further information about how a repairs consultant can help you, please email  JNeville@pennington.org.uk

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