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Property repair and maintenance for housing trust

A leading RSL in the north-west of England has formalized an arrangement with the specialist contractor, Plastic Surgeon to carry out all necessary minor cosmetic repairs internally and externally to its stock of over 18,000 homes.

Initially, New Charter Housing Trust recruited Plastic Surgeon just to take over the work on its void properties after a rival repair company had failed to honour its commitments. By contrast, with a dozen of its highly trained Finishers stationed across the region, Plastic Surgeon proved so reliable that the client extended the scope of the work to include all of its tenanted properties as well.

Aside from the quality and consistency of the repairs carried out by the Plastic Surgeon’s Finishers, the other important aspect to the company’s service for the social housing provider, is the way tenant liaison is managed.

Once the client has communicated a repair instruction to Plastic Surgeon’s national call centre by email, the customer care team sends out a letter the same day by first class post: giving both the time framework for the appointment and details of which operative will be carrying out the work. This includes their name, photograph and van registration number. A definite appointment is then made by telephone and the work carried out.

Typical repairs executed for New Charter Housing Trust on the void properties have included making good chips, scratches or other damage to doors, work-surfaces, kitchen units, window frames and bathroom suites. In most cases these are dealt with by first preparing and then filling the affected area, before it is rubbed down with a graduation of abrasives.

Currently Plastic Surgeon’s contract covers New Charter’s 14,000 units in Manchester’s Tameside area, 200 of which are currently unoccupied. Void Maintenance Manager, Dawn Reynolds, explains the rationale behind the appointment. “Due to problems with a previous supplier, we were looking for a company to take on our repair requirements. When Plastic Surgeon approached us, we were impressed by their emphasis on repair rather than replacement, which has already saved us time and money in terms of tipping charges and replacement costs. No other company could offer us this service.

“In just four months, they have carried out 96 repairs, and repaired rather than replaced 31 items. We have saved three-quarters of a tonne of environmental waste and our average repair cost has dropped from £250 to under £30.”

All of the Plastic Surgeon’s Finishers are trained in mixing colours from base pigments so that virtually any surface can be matched. This includes multi-coloured kitchen work-surfaces, grain patterns and high gloss coatings.

Plastic Surgeon’s Area Sales Manager for the north-west, Richard Moreton, explains the reasons the contract has been extended to cover the wider stock. He says: “Most repairs are completed within three days in unoccupied units, with a maximum of a five-day turnaround for tenanted properties. In the case of unoccupied properties, our personnel will collect the keys, provide power through our own generators – again saving the Trust money – return the keys and file their report.”

New Charter’s Property Maintenance  Officer Co-ordinator, Graham Maher, comments: “After Plastic Surgeon began working for our voids team, we invited the regional manager, Richard Moreton to come in and give us a presentation on the services the company could offer. “Initially we have used Plastic Surgeon to repair chips and small holes caused in baths, and in fact over the first couple of months there have not been any that have proved unrepairable. In addition to this there has been an on-going programme of kitchen as well as bathroom replacements – as part of our commitments when we transferred over from the council – and some of those worksurfaces are now out of production. It is likely, then, that we will be asking Plastic Surgeon to repair worktops rather than replacing them with different units.”

The company’s approach as a ‘paperless’ operation committed to investing heavily in technology sealed the deal. No paper is used, further benefitting the environment. Plastic Surgeon team members input all relevant data and information in real time through special hand-held units: known as the Mobile Finishers.

Through its paperless commitment, Plastic Surgeon has the technology to set up the order process according to a client’s specific preferences. The set-up with New Charter is straightforward and efficient, says Richard. “The environmental aspect is key to social housing groups – the money saved by repairing rather than replacing, and the reduced impact on the environment. The Trust has its own site surveyors who visit the housing units, list the repairs needed, take photos of the damage, and submit these to us online.”

“Everything is done by email and internet,” says Dawn. “We submit our repair details, they assess the damage, advise whether the situation requires repair or replacement, and forward an estimate of costs and time required.”New Charter is particularly impressed by the efficiency of Plastic Surgeon’s new online reporting system called VisibilITy. The customer can log in and download all relevant data – from repair requests and work done to reports and invoices. This allows clients to track trends such as where most of the damage is occurring, which items are being damaged most, what repairs are being carried out and at what cost.

“This system also allows us to track the wider green issues which are increasingly important these days,” says Dawn. “We can see at a glance, for example, how much we have saved in environmental terms in any given month.”

Over the past several years, Plastic Surgeon’s beneficial effect on the environment is clear to see: in one year alone, the company carried out over 11,000 worktop repairs, 13,000 cill repairs, 13,525 internal door repairs and 12,000 window repairs, including 390,000 individual repairs across 41 categories.

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