The government intends that enhanced consumer regulation for all social landlords, specifically performance league tables, will lead to greater transparency around housing and asset management, enabling tenants to hold their landlord accountable for such regulations
In respect of responsive repairs and planned capital works, there are four key areas where landlords should expect challenge, here are some examples of critical questions tenants could ask:
- Is our landlord spending enough on asset management?
- Are there weak links in the landlord’s compliance and assurance systems?
- How effective is the landlord’s contracting strategy?
- How effective is the landlord’s contract management?
As tenants gain greater understanding and involvement, more detailed questions may emerge around the governance of their landlord’s asset management processes.
They may want assurance of the adequacy of stock condition information their landlord holds on a risk register, and that there’s an understanding of the long-term benefits of investing in customer-focussed asset management systems.
A landlord will need to demonstrate that it has reconfigured its ‘chain of assurance’ and capital works specifications given the vulnerabilities exposed by Grenfell. This includes knowledge about the safety of the materials being used in responsive and particularly planned maintenance and holding sufficient data to be able to track back to the original source. Tenants will also want to know much compliance risk remains with them and how much is passed to the contractor.
Is tender evaluation still too focused on price rather than quality, leading to paper-thin margins and financially vulnerable contractors? With a competitive pool of contractors to work with, the landlord can create more opportunities for local medium-sized and SME contractors.
By integrating the procurement and contract management functions, the landlord can actively help its contractors to deliver and survive.
In answer to these challenges, Procurement for Housing has recently launched two dynamic purchasing systems (DPS), for capital works and compliance services, which will give landlords greater contracting flexibility to respond to tenant challenge.
A DPS is an electronic system through which contracting authorities can source requirements by inviting tenders from any supplier that meets the selection criteria. With the additional ability to allow suppliers to join it at any time, Landlords can maintain a constant competitive pool of suppliers and respond flexibly where tenants use their s20 rights to nominate a contractor. This procurement route permits contracting authorities to move straight to tender when a contract opportunity arises, expediting the tender timescales and significantly reducing the tendering burden on local SME contractors.
Properly deployed, the PfH DPS solutions can make a contribution to helping social landlords meet tenant expectations.