Open lines of communication with tenants are central to ForHousing’s approach to building safety, says Nigel Sedman, Executive Director of Homes.
Everyone should have a safe place to live. It is a sentiment we repeat a lot in our sector, but we must never let it lose its significance.
As a social landlord that owns and manages 24,000 homes across the North West, building safety, or more accurately, people safety is our absolute priority. Our dedicated building safety team is responsible for 17 high-rise blocks across Salford and Knowsley, three blocks at Joseph Groome Towers in Ellesmere Port, Dock 5 apartments in Ordsall, 11 extra care and sheltered blocks, and 49 mid-rise blocks.
The team is structured to ensure each person takes responsibility for a cluster of high-rise blocks. They each have expert knowledge about the buildings under their remit, their compliance status and they are familiar faces to tenants.
One of the team visits each of the blocks daily to check in and uses a building safety app, which shares real-time information, to do daily audits.
The team works closely with colleagues in compliance to achieve high performance around safety compliance. At ForHousing we achieve 100% or close to this across all of the six key priorities when it comes to building safety — fire, gas, electrics, asbestos, water safety, and lift safety.
We are pleased tenants rate ForHousing highly when it comes to satisfaction with safety and are on track to meet our target this year of 80% being satisfied their home is safe. But we know there is more to do.
Involving tenants has always been part of our culture, but the recently introduced tenant satisfaction measures give us another opportunity to listen to tenants and act on their views.
We are dedicated to listening to people’s feedback and improving wherever we can. As part of our commitment to this, we have created our own Tenant Charter as part of the National Housing Federation’s Together with Tenants initiative.
Tenants have told us safety is one of their priorities and it’s ours too. They also wanted to see communication from us focused on the issues that matter to them — so we are.
Open lines of communication
We want every tenant to feel safe in their home and confident when they do raise an issue action will be taken. To achieve this, we believe creating open lines of communication that give tenants a variety of ways to get in touch and to raise their views, is crucial.
Our new Raise It initiative is a fresh approach to scrutiny. It encourages tenants to raise the issues that matter most to them. We provide a range of opportunities for tenants to access key safety information and for them to raise safety concerns with us. These include:
- One-to-one chats with one of the team
- Visits for every new tenant focused on building safety
- Tenant building safety forums run quarterly in five different locations
- Tenant inspections of blocks
- Up to date signage in every building
- Regular drop-in sessions
- Community meetings
It is rare we receive feedback around safety concerns. But it is so important we have mechanisms for people to have their say and for them to know we’ll take action.
We’re always trying to improve and are looking to pilot new solutions including a portal where tenants can view the compliance information for their home to help them feel safe.
Honesty and accountability
We must ensure every single person who lives in a ForHousing home is safe, knows that any concerns they have will be taken seriously, and swift action taken.
Our ForHousing values are respect, trust, openness and passion. To truly live them, we must be honest about where we haven’t got things right and how we’ll do better. We have to be open to all feedback, and we must ensure tenants know they are heard and respected.
Nothing is more important to us than tenant safety and by working hand-in-hand with tenants we can keep improving.
Header image: ForHousing believes its effective engagement with tenants on building safety is crucial to driving up tenant satisfaction