Here you can read the latest edition of Housing News, the council's magazine for tenants.
Housing News is a regular magazine packed with useful information for tenants. If you have any ideas or suggestions for its content, email email@example.com.
In the Winter 2022 edition ...
In this issue we have the latest news on the review of our repairs and maintenance service, advice on dealing with damp and mould in your home and a sneak preview of the new HomeOption website. There's also a roundup of the last year in the annual report to tenants and leaseholders.
- Repairs and maintenance service 4 Dealing with damp and mould
Rescue at Reynolds
The good folk at Reynolds Court sheltered accommodation in Newport held an indoor fete to raise money for the East of England Air Ambulance after they came to the rescue of one of the residents!
The resident was treated by the air ambulance service in July, after she fell and broke her leg and spent time in hospital receiving treatment.
In response, warden Heather and residents put on a fete, with stalls including a tombola, lucky dip, guess the number of matchsticks in a model of Tower Bridge constructed by Peter one of the residents, also an auction and a barbecue.
The event raised £1,700 in total. An air ambulance volunteer visited to receive the cheque.
Great fun was had by all and it was a fantastic turnout from residents, families and friends.
Introduction from Nicole
The rising cost of living is a concern to us all. In this edition we have included some useful contacts for our services, as well as other partner agencies.
On the topic of partners, I want to say a big thank you to all those agencies who supported the multiagency events over the summer. It was amazing to meet so many of our residents and have such a fabulous array of agencies with all sorts of different ways to help us all everything from how to prevent a ﬁre in your home to how to ﬁnd a way to get ﬁt, and everything in between!
We endeavour to oﬀer all our tenants and leaseholders the best service possible but acknowledge that we can sometimes fall short. That is why we have taken time to look at how we deal with your complaints to see where we can make improvements. You can ﬁnd out more about this over the next few pages.
There are big changes on the way to make sure landlords provide the best possible services and new laws are being passed which give tenants more of a say in how services are being delivered.
This includes new tenant satisfaction measures which we need to roll out in April 2023. We will be looking for more tenants to get involved so please read the article by our Tenants & Leaseholders Panel to see how. You can get involved in other ways too and we would love to hear from you.
Finally, as a reminder to all our tenants and leaseholders that, whilst the council's front desk is open in Saﬀron Walden, our housing staﬀ are not in the oﬃce everyday. Therefore, the easiest and best ways to get in contact with the housing team is still by phone or email. If you really have no option but to go into the council oﬃces, please do call ahead to make sure you do not have a wasted journey.
Wishing you a happy and healthy Christmas.
Housing repairs and maintenance service
We have recently reviewed our repairs and maintenance services, alongside external specialists, assessing what changes are required to ensure we meet the high standard to which all tenants of Uttlesford District Council are entitled. One of the areas we have reviewed is how health and safety checks to our homes are managed. This includes making sure all the information that we have about each home is correct and that the right checks are being done, at the right time.
We know there are some checks that are still outstanding and Uttlesford Norse Services Limited, who carry out this work for us, have brought in extra specialist contractors to carry out these inspections as quickly as possible. They are mainly in relation to electrical wiring in some homes.
We are also putting in place improvements to the way our health and safety work is recorded and ensuring we have regular updates on all of our inspection programmes. As well as electrical safety, these inspections include water hygiene, ﬁre safety, lift safety, gas servicing and communal asbestos checks, as well as making sure all homes have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. You can help by making sure that you report repairs as soon as you notice them.
In the meantime, we've written to the Regulator of Social Housing to tell them about our position and the work we are doing to make sure all the homes we own have up to date checks. The Regulator will make sure that we are doing what we should be doing to achieve this.
Our team is still trying to book some outstanding safety inspection appointments with tenants who we have been unable to reach. If you are contacted by the council, by Uttlesford Norse Services or a contractor acting on their behalf, please help us by making an appointment and being available on the agreed date/time. We are now oﬀering evening and Saturday appointments to ﬁt around you.
We want to assure tenants and leaseholders that keeping your home safe is our top priority. Overall, your home has been regularly maintained over many years, and we receive positive feedback generally about our services from our tenants.
If you would like to know more, there are some questions and answers on our website. If you need to get in touch with us, please call 01799 510510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dealing with damp and mould in your home
Many people experience damp and mould in their home at some point and even in warm, well lookedafter properties, mould growth can occur, especially in the colder months.
If you notice damp or mould home, please call us to report it straightaway, so we can come and inspect your home. If damp and mould is left, it is likely to get worse. When we visit, we will assess what is causing the problems and what we need to do to sort it out.
There are also many things that you can do to help minimise damp, condensation and mould in your home.
1. Stop moisture building up
• Wipe down surfaces where moisture settles
• Cover boiling pans when cooking
• When cooking, bathing or washing and drying clothes, close kitchen and bathroom doors, even after you have ﬁnished
• Cover ﬁsh tanks to stop water evaporating
• Dry clothes outside where possible
• Make sure tumble dryers are vented outside
• Always keep extractor fans turned on and do not disable them, as they are designed to remove moisture from the air and many of them have a boost function which comes into operation when the moisture in the air is at its highest.
If your extractor fans do not work, contact Uttlesford Norse Services.
2. Ventilate or air your home
• open windows or use extractors when cooking or washing
• When drying clothes inside is necessary, do so in a small room with windows open, doors closed and extractor fan turned on
• Open windows for a while each day or use the trickle/night vents
• Do not block air vents this is important where gas and heating appliances are concerned as they need a supply of oxygen to work eﬀectively and allow gases such as carbon monoxide to escape
• Allow air to circulate around furniture and in cupboards
3. Keep your home warm
• Draught prooﬁng will keep your home warmer and reduce fuel bills however you must be careful not to draughtproof the windows in your bathroom or kitchen, or rooms where there is a gas cooker
• Insulating your loft and walls will help. If yours are not insulated contact us
• Maintain a low heat when the weather is cold or wet this is more eﬃcient than short bursts
• Do not block permanent ventilators
Check all radiators are working. If not, call us repairs on 01799 510510.
Complaints, compliments and feedback on housing service and repairs
We always value your feedback on our services and how we have delivered them and complaints are helpful because they give us an opportunity to put things right and learn from them.
The independent Housing Ombudsman Scheme (IHOS) is the governmentbacked plan which is responsible for making sure social landlords respond properly to complaints. The Ombudsman has asked all social housing landlords to look how they deal with complaints and publish the results. Read Uttlesford District Council's self assessment.
We have identiﬁed there are some things we need to do diﬀerently, and we are working on this. As part of this work, we have a new, improved complaints procedure.
What is a complaint?
We deﬁne a complaint as "an expression of dissatisfaction, however made, about the standard of service, actions or lack of action by the council, its own staﬀ, or those acting on its behalf, aﬀecting an individual resident or group of residents".
• Give a compliment tell us about something we have done well
• Make a formal complaint if you have spoken to the service your problem
• Make a formal complaint if you have spoken to the service your problem relates to and requested for something to be put right but you are still unhappy with their response, we will investigate further
If you have a compliment or feedback Use our general feedback form to tell us your experience of Uttlesford District Council so we know what we've done right or how we need to improve in future.
Alternatively, you can contact us.
Telephone: 01799 510510
If you have a complaint
Our complaints procedure tells you how to make a complaint and what to do at the diﬀerent stages.
Talk to us informally ﬁrst
In the ﬁrst instance, you should try to resolve the matter informally by talking to the member of staﬀ you were dealing with, or their manager.
Stage 1: Make a complaint
If this does not resolve the issue, please let us know and will log a formal complaint.
For housing repairs complaints, complete our housing repairs online complaints form.
Write a letter: Housing, Uttlesford District Council, London Road, Saﬀron Walden CB11 4ER
For all nonrepairs housing complaints
Write a letter: Housing, Uttlesford District Council, London Road, Saﬀron Walden CB11 4ER
Call us: 01799 510510
When we receive your complaint, we will log the complaint and write to you to tell that we have received it. We will also give you a complaint reference and tell you who will be investigating your complaint.
We will do this within ﬁve working days of receiving your complaint. This will be by email if you made the complaint online or we will send you a letter.
We will fully investigate your complaint. The investigation will be carried out by a manager who has not been involved with the issue before. We may need to contact you again to ask for more information and/or carry out a visit to your home to look at the problem.
We will always aim to give you a full response to your complaint within 10 working days. If for exceptional reasons we are unable to, for example, where the complaint is particularly complex, we will update you in writing to let you know this and give you a new response date. This new date will not be more than another 10 working days. We will only extend the time again after discussing this with you and with your agreement.
Stage 2: Ask for a review of your complaint
Once we have responded, if you are unhappy with the way your complaint has been dealt with you can contact us to let us know and we will arrange for a senior manager or director to review your case. We will always aim to respond to Stage 2 complaints within 10 working days.
Refer to the Ombudsman
If you remain dissatisfied after you have complained to us, you can contact the housing Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will investigate how we have handled your complaints and if it decides that we have not managed your complaint properly, it can ask us to take certain actions to resolve the matter.
For more information visit the Ombudsman website.
The Ombudsman has a Complaints Handling Code that sets out good practice for all social housing landlords, including Uttlesford District Council. The Code helps us respond to complaints eﬀectively and fairly.
Our complaints policy
You can ﬁnd information about what we do at each stage in our compliments, suggestions and complaints policy.
We will not tolerate abusive, persistent or vexatious complaints.
New-look website for HomeOption
The HomeOption website relaunched in May. It is now easier for customers to bid on properties, update us of any change of circumstances and to upload any supporting documents.
If you have submitted an online application, you are already registered with the HomeOption scheme.
You will now need to set up a secure password to allow you to login to your account. To set up your password you will need your:
• HomeOption reference number UDC/6561872
• Email address (the email address you used to register with HomeOption)
• Date of birth
On the homepage of the website, go to the "Login to your account" section and click "Already registered without a password". Please follow the instructions to set up your password.
When you have created your password, you can log in to your account to see the status of your application, update your contact details and upload your supporting documents.
You will not be able to place bids on any available properties until your application and supporting documents have been fully assessed. This is to ensure you meet the criteria to join the housing register or, if you have recently submitted a change of circumstances, that your application has been reassessed.
If you still need to submit any supporting documents, you are now required to upload them directly to your application.
Make sure you have contents insurance
Contents insurance covers you for the loss or damage to all the things in your home which are not part of the structure or the building in other words, your personal belongings such as clothing, furniture, jewellery and electrical goods. It is up to you, as a tenant, to ﬁnd and contact an insurance provider.
Different policies oﬀer different levels of cover but generally you'll be covered against theft, ﬁre and ﬂood.
Recently, one of our tenants had a ﬁre in
his home which saw all his contents destroyed. Fortunately, he was insured so he has the money to replace the furniture and goods. The building itself will be repaired through the council's insurers however, had the tenant not had contents insurance he would have had to pay to replace all the furniture and personal belongings at his own expense.
Please make sure you cover your goods with contents insurance you never know when you might need it.
Annual Report 2021-22
Our annual report to council tenants and leaseholders tells you how we're performing, how we use the money we get from rents and service charges, where we're doing well and where we need to improve.
Multiagency roadshow 2022 roundup
The multiagency roadshow continued in 2022 with the support of our partners. We thank those who participated and also those who couldn't attend but showed support in other ways.
These agencies are working hard to try and improve the lives of residents with a variety of interesting and diverse oﬀerings. Uttlesford Community Action Network supported us with their barista trailer and new mobile oﬃce vehicle, as our own trailer wasn't available this was much appreciated.
You can ﬁnd out a bit more about some of those agencies, including how to get in contact, over the next few pages.
We spoke to many of our tenants on our travels and handed out helpful information. I hope you were able to see us at one of the venues we visited this year. If you would like us to visit your neighbourhood next year, do let us know and in the meantime please feel free to get in touch.
Join the Tenant & Leaseholder Panel
Do you ever have great ideas that would help make the Housing Service run better, or are you just curious about how the council works as a landlord? If the answer is 'yes', you just might be the person we are looking for to join the Tenant & Leaseholder Panel.
To be a member is a great way to make new friends and help to put across points from other tenants to the council, via the Housing Board. Council tenants often have different ideas that the council's own members may not have considered. By putting the views of tenants forward, you can help them achieve to their aims and better meet the needs of us, the tenants and leaseholders.
From April 2023, we will need to start measuring our housing services against new performance targets, called tenant satisfaction measures. Tenants will have more of a say in the services they receive and this is a really exciting time to get involved.
We hope you will consider joining the Panel as we need to expand our membership, and we need to include younger tenants too. Let us know what we can do to encourage you to join. The council can pay expenses for travel and childcare, if needed, and will be providing more training for tenants who get involved so this is a great chance to learn new skills.
Carole Mandy, Chair
Simon Trimnell, Vice Chair
New housing schemes
Our Housing Service's development team are always working hard on new projects, and there are a number of schemes that have either recently completed or will soon be available for those in housing need on the council's Housing Register.
This includes the 16 new homes at The Moors, Little Dunmow. The scheme of eight social rented onebed ﬂats, developed with grants from Homes England, plus a further eight twobed houses let at an aﬀordable rent were handed over to the council in January. Each new home has an air source heat pump and either a parking space or its own driveway.
Another recently completed development a threebedroom fully wheelchair user bungalow in Gold Close, Elsenham (pictured opposite) which was purposebuilt for a young family was nominated for an Essex Housing Award.
The property, which has an air source heat pump as well as electric vehicle charging point, was let at an aﬀordable rent.
Plans for a similar scheme at The Mead, Thaxted, is also in the pipeline with out line planning approval granted for the purposebuilt twobed wheelchair user property.
Elsewhere in the district, two more sites for aﬀordable rent are soon to be coming online: 13 homes at Rookery Close, Great Chesterford which are due for handover in midNovember; and 14 homes at Thaxted Road, Saﬀron Walden which are due for completion early in the new year.
The council's bid to buy 19 ﬂats at Woodlands Park, Great Dunmow, was accepted by Barratt David Wilson. The ﬁrst phase of nine onebed ﬂats is due for completion and handover in March next year with the remaining properties due 12 months later.
Meanwhile, Walden Place in Saﬀron Walden has been granted planning permission and work is anticipated to start on site any day now. The listed building will be detached from the rest of the sheltered scheme, and two new ﬂats will be built as well as new communal facilities.
Amongst the other major proposed schemes in the pipeline, a planning application has already been submitted for the redevelopment of Parkside, Saﬀron Walden into 24 ﬂats, whilst proposals for the redevelopment of Alexia House, Great Dunmow will be submitted by the end of the year. Both schemes, if approved, will be for the over 60s.