Rethinking Repairs and Maintenance

Everything you need to know about the RERAM project, launched by the CIH and NHF in 2023 to help the sector deliver the Better Social Housing Review's recommendations.


Q. What is the Rethinking Repairs and Maintenance project?

A. The Rethinking Repairs and Maintenance project (RERAM) was set up by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and National Housing Federation (NHF) to help the sector deliver the Better Social Housing Review’s (BSHR) recommendation that “Housing associations should partner with residents, contractors and frontline staff to develop and apply new standards defining what an excellent maintenance and repairs process looks like.” The aim was to support the social housing sector to improve the standard of repairs and maintenance services delivered to social housing residents.

CIH initiated its research with contractors and service providers at NHMF’s Service Provider Forum (SPF) on 13 September 2023, with small group discussions examining working with clients and improving delivery through data, including that held by service providers.

Q. What were RERAM’S findings?

A. Based on its research with residents, social landlords and wider stakeholders, the project developed good practice guidance, case studies and 12 principles for how social landlords should work with their residents and colleagues to improve their repairs and maintenance (R&M) services. These 12 principles are grouped into six themes, covering:

  • Improving cultures and behaviours
  • Inclusivity and tackling discrimination
  • Structuring your engagement
  • Involving colleagues
  • Understanding your performance
  • Closing the loop.

RERAM recommends approaching these themes in order, starting with a re-examination of an organisation’s culture and how inclusive its engagement and resident scrutiny processes are, before working consecutively through each theme. The guidance includes examples of good practice and case studies.

The project also investigated how social landlords could work more collaboratively with their contractors, service providers, and inhouse R&M teams to improve service delivery. This developed the themes identified in the SPF small group discussions on 13 September 2023, such as the need to change from ‘them and us’ to a partnership approach and a data-driven service based on clear objectives. Since they often hold a large amount of data, which could be used by landlords to improve delivery of their repairs and maintenance service.

Good practice guidance and case studies have been produced to help social landlords work more effectively with these parties to obtain better outcomes for their residents.

Q. What areas did RERAM identify?

A. The project identified the following key aspects:

It also developed:

Q. What is an excellent R&M service?

A. While the report lists several factors, an excellent R&M service has, as a starting point, to meet the minimum standards residents expect. In fact, residents should be in the forefront of assessing the quality the service. Some of factors that residents want include:

  • Being treated with respect, and believed, by housing providers and their contractors.
  • Repairs being easy to report through multiple means (e.g. by phone, website, and app), with a clear, simple complaints procedures, for when things go wrong.
  • Being kept up-to-date at every stage of the repairs process, especially for appointments, and from operatives.
  • Having clear and realistic timescales and expectations, as well as being honest about delays and problems, and working with residents to fix them as quickly as possible.
  • Knowing and adapting to the variegated and often complex needs of different residents.
  • Good quality of work, with homes left clean and tidy.

The working group recognised excellence might mean different things for different providers. Residents may see some things as more important than others, or have additional standards that matter more to them and their communities. Committing to delivering an excellent R&M is both a promise to do the basics well, and continuing to work with residents to understand their priorities and where they want improvements made. Excellence is neither imposed from the top-down nor built entirely anew from the bottom-up, but is an ongoing process, defined and redefined in partnership with residents, staff, and contractors.

The full list of factors can be found at: excellent R&M service

Q. What are the recommendations about residents scrutinising the service?

A. While social landlords are experienced at delivering resident engagement and tenant voice activities, the sector is also increasingly using technology and innovation to gather real time feedback from residents, including methods such as automated text emails sent just after a responsive repair. Structuring your engagement with residents about repairs and maintenance services should firstly follow the Together with Tenants charter, developed by the NHF to strengthen the relationship between residents and landlords. Two other things landlords should do to support residents to scrutinise repairs and maintenance services are:

  • Allowing residents to scrutinise different parts of their repairs and maintenance service, and supporting them to do so.
  • Committing to engaging throughout the whole repairs and maintenance cycle, especially at procurement and key milestones in service design.

This section included a case study from Live West on their approach to supporting residents scrutinise their R&M service.

Q. What recommendations are made on how to measure performance and progress?

A. Measuring and monitoring performance using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and other forms of metrics is well established in social housing. While KPIs help operational and continuous improvement, focusing on KPIs can sometimes obscure wider issues with a R&M service. A hybrid approach to KPIs means harnessing the insight generated by different KPIs, including resident-driven KPIs, to drive improvements to the R&M services. KPIs that can be compared across organisations allows comparison against similar organisations.

Q. How can (re)procurement be improved?

A. (Re)procuring a R&M service is one of the most important opportunities to improve outcomes for residents. This research found significant examples of good practice in procurement and contract management, but also instances of things going wrong. From the working group’s engagement with residents, housing providers, contractors, and service providers, 10 principles were identified when designing and procuring a new R&M service.

These principles split into three groups:

  1. Early market engagement and procurement,
  2. Building a sustainable relationship with good working practices, and
  3. Practicing continuous improvement.

Not all of these principles apply in all cases. For example, engaging the wider market may not be appropriate when transitioning to an in-house R&M team, while monitoring the market and designing a contract structure are less likely to be relevant to in-house R&M teams. The results are applicable to R&M services however they are delivered. Social landlords should also be mindful of the changes introduced by the new Procurement Act 2023 and this guide explains what needs to be understood about the changes.

Q. How do Service Providers and Contractors see good R&M practice?

This research worked with the National Housing Maintenance Forum (NHMF) and with CIH and NHF’s partner organisations to identify characteristics of good working relationships between contractors / service providers / in-house repairs teams and social landlords. They asked contractors and service providers what they value in their relationships with landlords, what works well, and what practices could be replicated across the sector. The key findings can be split into three sections:

  1. Culture, values, and relationships,
  2. Good practice in building a working relationship, and
  3. Ongoing and continuous improvement.

The full detail is available in this section.

Q. What examples are there?

A. The report includes a series of case studies showing how organisations have approached improving their R&M services. More examples will be developed as the research continues.

Q. Will more case studies be published?

Yes, CIH is keen to gather some more examples of contractors and landlords who have worked collaboratively to improve R&M services to develop and publish more case studies. In particular, CIH is looking for case studies that demonstrate how contractors and housing providers have worked together to improve R&M services. If you are interested in providing a case study, please contact:

Q. Who was involved?

The Working Group members were:

  • Stephanie Allen, Head of Asset Strategy and Delivery, Riverside Group
  • Lisa Birchall, Head of Policy, National Federation of ALMOs
  • Emma Brooker, Head of Maintenance services, L&Q
  • Rob Bywater, Head of Assets, Ashton Pioneer Homes
  • Hazel Edwards, Head of Customer Voice and Value, Wrekin Housing Group
  • Chloe Fletcher, formerly Director of Policy, National Federation of ALMOs, now Director, Housing Quality Network
  • Mushtaq Khan, Chief Executive, Housing Diversity Network
  • Jenny Osbourne, chief executive, TPAS
  • Annie Owens, Policy Lead, National Housing Federation
  • Adam Pearce, Property and Repairs Manager, Northstar
  • Angela Perry, Executive Director of Assets and Development, South Liverpool Homes
  • Paul Price, Chief Executive, Association of Retained Council Housing (ARCH)
  • Alan Scott, Assistant Director of Programme and Cyclical Delivery, Believe Housing
  • Liane Sheppard, Director of Property services, Live West
  • David Smith, Head of Business Partnerships, South East Consortium
  • David Taylor, Executive Operations Director, Midland Heart
  • Mike Turner, Executive Director, Cardo Group (also represented NHMF’s Service Provider Forum)

Q. Where can I find out more?

A. The outputs of this project, including the case studies and full report, is available on the CIH’s website at: Rethinking Repairs and Maintenance.

"Working together with representatives from across the sector, it was fantastic to have the NHMF’s Service Provider Forum's knowledge, experience and input into the rethinking repairs and maintenance project. We would encourage service providers to work collaboratively with their clients to put our recommendations and guiding principles into practice.”

James Prestwich, Director of Policy and External Affairs, Chartered Institute of Housing


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