LABM speaks to owner and founder of void refurbishment specialist, SCS, Sarah Southworth, about how the void process works and how the company has developed a model that meets the varied needs of housing association and local authorities keen to turn their empty properties back into homes.
Specialists in the delivery of void repairs and refurbishment services for housing associations and local authorities across the North-west, SCS launched eight years ago. The company has developed and honed its services that sit under the void programme of works, and is able to offer a full key to key service, spanning initial clean out through to replacement infrastructure including kitchens and bathrooms.
Sarah says: “Our work as a commercial cleaning business began in 2008 when we focused solely on void property cleans, however, this evolved through time as we built a reputation, working with more customers and earning fantastic feedback and recognition. Through the years, we developed the confidence to add bolt on services that we knew our clients needed, and were keen to work with us on other phases of each project, until eventually we could provide a one stop shop.
“Our growth has been very steady and organic and so we have had the time to implement the right working practices, processes and procedures. Today we carry out work for housing associations and local authorities predominantly within the North-west but are seeing growth further afield and into Cheshire and Merseyside.”
Sarah talks us through the void process: “The void repairs industry is fairly reactive and the nature of work is that we are given very little notice in terms of timescales, therefore, we have to factor in all eventualities and ensure we have the resources in place to deliver. Typically, we are allocated a property with only 24 hours’ notice.
“On the day of the contract, a job reference is drawn up and given to the allocated team which is usually made up of two people. Once the guys arrive on site, they carry out a brief survey and ensure the works are of a standard nature and that there is nothing unusual around such as needles. If there is anything ‘unusual’ the team report back and we liaise with the client.
Efficient removal process
“We operate a small fleet of four wago
ns that contains the equivalent of two eight yards skips, negating the need to hire and arrange transportation for skips externally. This has been incredibly important to the expansion of the business as having this internal resource guarantees that we are able to turnaround each property within a day, leaving no evidence of the clean and removal process.
“We strip out the property completely and load onto the wagons. Any furniture that is in good condition is transported separately back to our warehouse where we store and redistribute to future tenants in need. We’ve found that people often abandon decent furniture rather than arrange for transport and storage. Rather than skip it, we want to be able to help others.
“We’ve seen so many instances where tenants are moving into their new homes with absolutely nothing and we’ve been able to help. On a number of occasions, we’ve been able to practically kit out an entire home from our salvaged furniture, which has been brilliant. The rest of the cleared items are taken to a local recycling facility where they are categorised and recycled where possible.”
Property clean up
Back in the house, the property is swept through to become free of any debris and a thorough clean is carried out. Industrial solutions are used to ensure the house is thoroughly cleaned in every room, behind every nook and cranny.
Sarah continues: “Homes are so incredibly important to people and having that stable foundation can have a massive impact on a person’s wellbeing. Our aim is to deliver a house that each and every one of us, including me, would be happy to live in. All of our team take huge pride in their work and we turnaround homes to the highest standards.
“If there are repairs that need to be carried out, our trade’s team will make those on the day where possible, however, may return on day two to complete. Increasingly we are being tasked with a wider scope of additional works ranging from asbestos removal, ground maintenance, grass cutting, pest control as well as full reinstatements of new kitchens, bathrooms, doors, windows etc. We are also equipped to carry out needle sweeps, environmental cleans and trauma cleaning. Ultimately what we have today is a full end to end service, enabling our clients to call on us to deliver even the most challenging full scope of works.”
Sarah concludes: “I’m incredibly proud of the business we have today. We have a team of over 30 directly employed operatives with incredibly high staff retention rates. We began as a family firm and we have retained that ethos. Each of our team recognise the value of a house as a home and it is that shared commitment that makes the business stand out in our industry.”