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Identifying the Priorities of Tenants of Social Landlords

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3 OVERALL PRIORITIES OF TENANTS

Key findings

Tenants and RTOs identified the provision of good quality accommodation as their key service priority.

Other services identified as priorities by tenants were centred on immediate and 'everyday' services; that is, those services that directly affect the quality of tenants' lives on a daily basis. By far the biggest priority in this respect was the provision of good quality accommodation, with 23% of tenants rating this as the most important service relative to all other services. The second most important service was a good day-to-day repairs service (14% of tenants rated this as the most important service relative to all other services), followed by dealing with anti-social behaviour (12%), ensuring buildings and entrances are secure (11%), major modernisation and improvement work (9%) and dealing with nuisance neighbours (7%).

Similar to tenants, RTOs were most likely to rate good quality accommodation as a priority service, with 79% rating this as essential. However, relative to other services, RTOs were more likely than tenants to prioritise the importance of services impacting on the wellbeing of the wider estate or neighbourhood, including dealing with anti-social behaviour, dealing with nuisance neighbours, keeping buildings and entrances secure, taking tenants' views into account and involving tenants in decision making.

The majority of tenants were satisfied with all services. RTOs were less likely than tenants to be satisfied with all services

For the most part, those services that tenants and RTOs perceived as being most important also received high satisfaction scores. Further, those services that tenants and RTOs were least likely to be satisfied with were perceived to be less important. However, this was less true of RTO responses. In particular, while attaching particularly high importance to addressing antisocial behaviour, RTOs generally considered that landlords were weak performers here (see Figure 3.7, page 31).

3.1 This chapter focuses on tenants' key overall priorities. The chapter is divided into three main sections. Firstly, we outline the services that tenants and RTOs identified, unprompted, as the most important to them, followed by a discussion of the extent to which all main services were identified as being important. Secondly, we consider how satisfied tenants and RTOs were with these services and compare levels of service importance and service satisfaction. Thirdly, we examine the particular aspects of the day-to-day repairs service and customer services that were important to tenants and RTOs.

Most important services - unprompted responses

3.2 Tenants and RTOs showed consistency in their views of services which are most important to them. Around two-thirds of tenants (63%) and around half of RTOs (48%) reported that the repairs service is of the highest priority to them. (See Figure 3.1). Other services identified as being most important by both groups included wider estate management and the upkeep and maintenance of communal grounds (17% of tenants and 21% of RTOs), major modernisations and improvement to homes (9% and 15%) and security, including keeping the building and entrances secure (8% and 11%). These findings also widely reflect the views of tenants from the many English-based studies that have taken place.

3.3 However, there were some differences between tenants and RTOs. For example, RTOs were more likely than tenants to say that affordable rent levels, allocations, including waiting lists and requests for moves and transfers and facilities for the community and estate were among the most important services (16%, 11% and 11% compared to 5%, 0% and 0% respectively).

Figure 3.1: Most important services - tenants and RTOs

Figure 3.1: Most important services - tenants and RTOs

Overall service priorities

Tenants

3.4 The findings from the 'paired choice' 13 questions, shown in figure 3.2, indicate that the priorities of tenants were centred on immediate and 'everyday' services, that is, those services that directly affect the quality of tenants' lives on a daily basis. By far the most important service for tenants was the provision of good quality accommodation, with 23% of tenants stating this as the most important service relative to all other services14, despite this not being the most mentioned response unprompted. The second most important service was good day to day repairs (14% of tenants said this was the most important service relative to all other services), followed by dealing with anti-social behaviour (12%), ensuring buildings and entrances are secure (11%), major modernisation and improvement work (9%) and dealing with nuisance neighbours (7%).

3.5 Those services that are less likely to directly affect tenants' quality of life on a daily basis, or those that tenants are likely to have less experience of, were felt to be less important: good customer service (6%); involving tenants in decision making (5%); effective complaints handling procedures (4%); efficient maintenance of the estate and communal grounds (4%); taking tenants views into account (4%); and having a fair system for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (3%). It is important to bear in mind that the survey results for service priorities are based on the perceptions of tenants and not necessarily service users. Therefore, it is possible that some tenants would have had little experience of, or little need to use, some of the services.

Figure 3.2: Tenants' top service priorities

Figure 3.2: Tenants' top service priorities

3.6 While the prioritisation of services was broadly consistent across all subgroups, including tenants of local authorities and RSLs, the most significant difference was in relation to dealing with anti-social behaviour. Tenants living in the most deprived areas ranked dealing with anti-social behaviour as more important than a good day-to-day repairs service (14% compared to 13%).

3.7 This is consistent with the experiences of tenants reported in the focus groups. Indeed, for tenants living in urban areas of high deprivation, particularly in Glasgow, who are more likely to encounter anti-social-behaviour, dealing with anti-social behaviour and making entrances secure were felt to be foremost priorities.

3.8 Further, the focus on prioritising 'everyday' services was reflected in group discussions with tenants and RTOs. Throughout discussions, it was evident that tenants wanted their landlords to ensure that the 'basics' were delivered effectively. However, in the most part, tenants believed that the priority was having accommodation that meets their needs and is fit for purpose.

"Well I think if they look after the housing stock then that's the most important to us, that the houses are suitable to live in" (Kilmarnock).

"When you get to my age you want somewhere comfortable to stay…your own wee castle, so to speak" (Galashiels).

"As long as your house is adequate for your needs" (Glasgow).

3.9 For those tenants with disabilities it was important that their landlord provided accommodation that catered for any additional needs they had, for example, installing wet room bathrooms and wheelchair ramps.

RTOs

3.10 More than eight in ten RTOs perceived each of the overall services as being essential or very important. However, given that it might be expected that each service would be perceived to be at least very important by a large proportion of RTOs, in order to distinguish the priority services, it is more useful to analysis those services that were perceived to be essential (see Figure 3.3).

Figure 3.3: RTOs' overall service priorities

Figure 3.3: RTOs' overall service priorities

3.11 Tenants' focus on prioritising good quality accommodation was reflected in the priorities of RTOs, with around eight in ten perceiving this service as essential. However, in terms of the ranking of the services that were perceived to be essential 15 they were more likely than tenants to prioritise services that impacted on the wellbeing of the wider estate, rather than individual homes. Indeed, relative to other services, they were less likely than tenants to feel that the day-to-day repairs services and major modernisation and improvement work were important but, instead, were more likely to perceive dealing with anti-social behaviour, dealing with nuisance neighbours and keeping buildings and entrances secure as essential services. Further, as might be expected given their function to represent the views of tenants, relative to other services, RTOs were more likely than tenants to rate taking tenants views into account and involving tenants in decision making as important (see Table 3.1).

Table 3.1: Rank importance of services - tenants and RTOs compared

Service

Rank importance - tenants

Rank importance - RTOs

The provision of good quality accommodation

1

1

A good day to day repairs service

2

7

Dealing with anti-social behaviour

3

2

Keeping the buildings and entrances secure

4

5

Major modernisation and improvement work

5

11

Dealing with nuisance neighbours

6

3

Good customer service

7

9

Involving tenants in decision making

8

6

Efficient maintenance of the estate and communal grounds

9

12

Taking tenants views into account

9

4

Effective complaints handling procedures

9

8

A fair system, for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers

12

10

3.12 The results of the RTO survey were reflected in the focus group with RTOs. As with tenants, RTOs recognised the importance of ensuring good quality of housing as it has a direct impact on tenants' everyday quality of life. The priority for the tenants they represent is having accommodation that is fit for living in and offers sufficient shelter and security.

"I've been talking to [area] tenants and number of them would like to have a warm dry home rather than damp and they don't feel their homes are completely water-tight, wind and water tight as there is damp condensation inside" ( RTO).

"Quality of life comes into it, keep them clean and also comfortable and living in a clean house [with no] vermin, and being safe…I think that's part and parcel of the daily life of a tenant" ( RTO).

3.13 While RTOs also recognised the importance of the repairs service to their tenant members, having good quality accommodation was a much higher priority. Participants discussed how having good quality housing with good quality fixtures and fittings would mean that landlords would not necessarily require a good day-to-day repairs service.

"If we had good quality accommodation, we wouldn't necessarily need great day-to-day [repairs], if we were in good properties that didn't need a lot of maintenance" ( RTO).

3.14 However, differences in service priorities between tenants and RTOs were also evident in group discussions. Throughout, it was clear that engaging tenants was much more of a priority for RTOs than mainstream tenants.

"Involving tenants in decision making, that's an even bigger tick. You cannot not have that" ( RTO).

Satisfaction with services

3.15 To help contextualise service priorities, we also asked tenants and RTOs how satisfied they were with their landlord's performance at providing services. Comparing satisfaction levels with priorities allows an analysis of whether services considered essential by tenants are also those which are seen to be being delivered effectively. On the whole, tenants were more likely than RTOs to say they are satisfied with all services. This notwithstanding, the services that both groups were most likely to be satisfied with were broadly consistent.

3.16 When interpreting results on satisfaction with services it is important to bear in mind that it is not just the quality of the service that determines levels of satisfaction. Therefore, high satisfaction scores do not always indicate high quality services. There are two other factors that influence perceptions 16:

  • Whether or not a person has had direct experience of using a service - in order to make informed judgements on service quality, tenants would need to have experienced the service. Without this experience, they may not be able to give a view or may rate a service based on experiences of others, acquired through word of mouth, which are likely to be negative.
  • Significantly, expectation levels will also drive satisfaction - those with low expectations are more likely to be satisfied as the service they receive is more likely to meet or exceed these expectations. On the other hand, those with high expectations are less likely to be satisfied and, in many cases, are dissatisfied. Further, expectations are influenced by demographics, with different types of people more likely than others to say they are satisfied with services.

Tenants

3.17 The majority of tenants were satisfied with all services 17 (see Figure 3.4). They were most likely to be satisfied with their landlord's performance at providing good quality accommodation (85%), keeping the buildings and entrances secure (83%), providing good customer service (80%) and providing a good day-to-day repairs service (79%).

3.18 They were least likely to be satisfied with their landlord's performance at involving tenants in decision making (67%), dealing with nuisance neighbours (67%), and ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (61%).

3.19 However, a significant proportion of tenants - over a fifth in each case - said they were dissatisfied with seven of the twelve services, including having effective complaints handling procedures (21%), dealing with nuisance neighbours (22%), dealing with anti-social behaviour (23%), taking tenants' views into account (25%), involving tenants in decision making (26%), major modernisation and improvement work (28%) and ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (29%).

Figure 3.4: Tenants' satisfaction with services

Figure 3.4: Tenants' satisfaction with services

3.20 As Table 3.2 shows, tenants of RSLs were more likely than those of local authorities to be satisfied with all services. This was particularly the case with regards providing a good quality day-to-day repairs service (87% compared to 75%), having effective complaints handling procedures (78% compared to 66%), dealing with nuisance neighbours (74% compared to 63%), and ensuring a fair system for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (69% compared to 58%).

Table 3.2: Tenants' satisfaction with services by landlord

All

Local Authority

RSL

% diff

% Satisfied

Providing good quality accommodation

85

82

90

8

Keeping the buildings and entrances secure

83

82

86

4

Providing good customer service

80

77

86

9

Providing a good day to day repairs service

79

75

87

12

Efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds

77

74

84

8

Having effective complaints handling procedures

70

66

78

12

Dealing with anti-social behaviour

69

68

72

4

Taking tenants views into account

68

65

73

8

Carrying out major modernisation and improvement work

68

65

73

8

Dealing with nuisance neighbours

67

63

74

11

Involving tenants in decision making

67

66

70

4

Ensuring a fair system for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers

61

58

69

11

N

500

285

215

3.21 This finding reflects results from the 2007 Scottish House Condition Survey ( SHCS), which showed that RSL tenants were more likely than local authority tenants to say they were satisfied with their landlord's overall service (80% (40% of whom were very satisfied) compared to 74% (20% of whom were very satisfied)). However, the SHCS also showed that the highest satisfaction rates are actually in the private rented sector. In attempting to explain this finding it should be recognised that expectations of landlords may be relatively low in a sector where there is a very high tenancy turnover, with many treating it as a purely transitional home. Additionally, with the private rented sector nowadays accommodating a substantial number of better-off households many of those concerned may be less reliant on their landlord than is typically true of social renters 18.

3.22 Consistent with the assertion that some groups are more likely than others to say they are satisfied with services, there were also differences by age. Generally, older tenants aged 55 years or more were more likely than younger tenants to say they were satisfied with all services (see Table 3.3). Most notably, they were more likely than younger tenants aged 35 to 54 years and 16 to 34 years to say they were satisfied with their landlord's performance at efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds, having effective complaints handling procedures, carrying out major modernisation and improvement work, taking tenants' views into account, involving tenants in decision making, and dealing with anti-social behaviour and nuisance neighbours.

3.23 By contrast, younger tenants aged 16 to 34 years were least likely to be satisfied with all services. Moreover, they were more likely to be dissatisfied than satisfied with their landlord's performance at taking tenants' views into account, involving tenants in decision making and ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers. These differences may be a reflection of older tenants having lower expectations than younger tenants of their landlord's services. Indeed, it could be argued that younger tenants are more likely to have a more consumerist outlook to day-to-day life and thus will demand products and services that are more tailored to their needs.

Table 3.3: Tenants' satisfaction with services by age

All

16-34

35-54

55+

% Satisfied

Providing good quality accommodation

85

56

86

94

Keeping the buildings and entrances secure

83

72

80

91

Providing good customer service

80

59

82

87

Providing a good day to day repairs service

79

63

79

85

Efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds

77

63

72

87

Having effective complaints handling procedures

70

51

63

84

Dealing with anti-social behaviour

69

63

63

78

Taking tenants views into account

68

47

63

80

Carrying out major modernisation and improvement work

68

48

65

78

Dealing with nuisance neighbours

67

53

59

81

Involving tenants in decision making

67

38

64

80

Ensuring a fair system for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers

61

38

57

75

N

500

78

189

232

3.24 There were also some differences by Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD). Reflecting the greater prevalence of anti-social behaviour in these areas, tenants living in the most deprived 20% areas were more likely than those living in other areas to say they were dissatisfied with their landlord's performance at dealing with anti-social behaviour and nuisance neighbours (27% compared to 17% and 26% compared to 17%, respectively). This is particularly significant given that tenants living in the most deprived areas in Scotland ranked dealing with anti-social behaviour as the second most important service, more important than the day-to-day repairs service. In addition, tenants living in other areas were more likely than those living in the most deprived 20% areas to say they were satisfied with their landlord's performance at providing good quality accommodation (88% compared to 81%).

Waiting lists and transfers

3.25 In group discussions, the issue of ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers was raised as an area where landlords could improve and where tenants felt dissatisfied. While, for the majority of tenants, who are unlikely to be seeking a move, the allocations service might not be considered a priority vis a vis other core services - overall, this service was ranked the lowest priority by tenants - it was generally felt, particularly strongly among those who had direct experience of the service, that it could be fairer. Furthermore, the allocations service will be particularly important for prospective tenants. There was a strong view from participants in the tenants groups that the allocations and waiting list system unfairly gave preference to those whom they considered 'undeserving' tenants, namely migrants, people with social problems and people with a previous record of anti-social behaviour.

"I've been waiting for years to get a bigger house for my family, there's five of us living in a two bedroom house; we're busting basically at the seams…if you take drugs and you're an alcoholic you're a priority to them". (Kilmarnock)

"Well there's people on waiting lists for years for houses and they can't get them and then foreigners are getting them left, right and centre" (Fraserburgh).

3.26 Further, tenants believed that more consideration could be given to types of tenants who are allocated housing. On one hand this was linked to unfair priority being given to tenants with a record of social problems. Indeed, participants living in urban areas felt the housing allocation system was one of the sources of problems in their area.

"Control the waiting and allocation of the houses, they shouldn't be giving them to people with ASBOs, to start selling drugs, into brand new houses" (Glasgow).

"You would wait like ten years for a house, never mind a maisonette and then they started bringing all the druggies from different areas and totally ruined it" (Dundee).

3.27 On the other hand, tenants believed that a more common-sense approach could be taken when managing waiting lists and allocating housing in general. Two main examples were given. First, tenants who had experience of the service were frustrated that they had little choice over where they were offered housing, a lot of the time in areas that were perceived to be unsuitable for their circumstances.

"…you don't have choices, you don't have the ability to say what area you want or what kind of house you're needing…" (Glasgow).

"…I put in for a house, I get offered one down in [place], all the junkie paradise. I don't take drugs and I don't want my kids round about those sorts of things. A couple of years ago it was in the paper for people pulling out machetes and that's what I got offered…it's not really fair" (Kilmarnock).

3.28 Linked to this, some tenants discussed how it was important for tenants to take the demographics and lifestyles of tenants into consideration and house them in suitable locations. One problem highlighted was housing young families in blocks of older tenants

"I don't see what the point is of [landlord] putting in youngsters into a block of flats, into a house, or whatever it is, amongst old people. The young people are driving the old people out" (Galashiels).

3.29 Second, it was felt that more could be done to re-house tenants in suitably sized accommodation, particularly those that are currently occupying housing that is bigger than they require.

"There is a load of older folk in the houses and they don't want to move because they've been there all their lives and I think that is totally wrong. Old wifies biding in three bedroom houses; they should be made to come out to a smaller house because there is not enough three bedroom houses in this town for the amount of folk" (Fraserburgh).

"There is a lot of houses out there and people living in them where there's only a couple or a single person living in a three or four bedroom, or even a five bedroom house and if there is a smaller house and they want to be downsized, they don't get an offer of that house. Whereas, if they had a list of people who want to downsize and they moved there would be a wee bit bigger house for a family, but they can't do that" ( RTO).

RTOs

3.30 On balance, RTOs were generally less likely than tenants to be satisfied with all services, a possible reflection of their role of representing tenants' views with landlords. RTOs reported greatest satisfaction with the same services as tenants reported but to a lesser degree. Highest levels of satisfaction were expressed with landlords' performance at providing good quality accommodation (73%), carrying out major modernisation and improvements work (59%), providing good customer service (52%), involving tenants in decision making (52%) and providing a good day-to-day repairs service (52%) (see Figure 3.5).

Figure 3.5: RTOs' satisfaction with services

Figure 3.5: RTOs' satisfaction with services

3.31RTOs were least likely to be satisfied with dealing with anti-social behaviour (40%), efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds (38%), ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (38%) and dealing with nuisance neighbours (37%).

3.32 However, more than a fifth of RTOs were dissatisfied with ten of the twelve services. Further, RTOs were more likely to be dissatisfied than satisfied with landlords in their area's performance at dealing with nuisance neighbours (39% compared to 37%).

3.33 There was some variation by landlord type. More specifically, RTOs of RSL landlords were more likely than those of local authorities to be satisfied with:

  • efficiently maintaining the state and communal grounds (57% compared to 34%);
  • ensuring a fair system for managing waiting lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers (55% compared to 29%); and
  • dealing with nuisance neighbours (49% compared to 31%).

3.34 Moreover, RTOs of RSL tenants were more likely than those of local authorities to say they were very satisfied with the performance of landlords in their area at providing good quality accommodation (39% compared to 19%), efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds (31% compared to 8%), carrying out major modernisations and improvements work (35% compared to 19%), keeping the buildings and entrances secure (27% compared to 11%), involving tenants in decision making (43% compared to 20%) and taking tenants views into account (37% compared to 19%).

3.35 Satisfaction with services among RTOs also varied by their perceived level of influence over the way landlords deliver housing services in their area (see Table 3.4). RTOs who felt they have some or a lot of influence (at least some influence) were more likely than those who felt they have little or no influence to say they were satisfied with all services. Of course, the causality is not clear. On one level, it could be argued that those RTOs with greater influence over the way their landlord provides services in their area might have a greater role in moulding services to match tenants' needs and, therefore, would have greater satisfaction with a service that more adequately meets their needs; while those who have little or no influence would not have this same role and might therefore receive a service that does not meet their needs. However, this association might be the result of a wider dissatisfaction with their landlord, of which feeling that they do not have an influence over them may only be a part.

Table 3.4: Satisfaction with services by perceived level of influence

At least some influence

Little or no influence

All

% Satisfied

Providing good quality accommodation

83

62

73

Carrying out major modernisation and improvement work

68

49

59

Providing good customer service

68

36

52

Providing a good day to day repairs service

61

43

52

Keeping the buildings and entrances secure

60

36

49

Having effective complaints handling procedures

57

33

46

Taking tenants views into account

71

19

46

Involving tenants in decision making

75

26

40

Dealing with anti-social behaviour

54

26

40

Efficiently maintaining the estate and communal grounds

50

24

38

Ensuring a fair system for managing lists for housing and requests for moves and transfers

55

20

38

Dealing with nuisance neighbours

51

22

37

N

101

90

193

Good and bad practice

3.36 Exploring the theme of satisfaction further, we also asked RTOs, unprompted, what they felt landlords in their area did well and what they needed to improve. Reflecting some of the differences in their overall priorities compared with tenants, RTOs tended to highlight issues related to their role as an organisation for representing tenants' views, rather than issues directly related to tenants' homes, highlighting the heightened emphasis RTOs place on issues of tenant participation and involvement. This emphasis occurred in highlighting positive and negative aspects of landlord service.

3.37 Indeed, they were most likely to say that their landlord is good at listening to tenants (25%) and keeping residents informed about what is going on (13%), while they were less likely to mention issues relating to repair work being carried out promptly (9%) and staff being very approachable and helpful (7%). However, 15% said their landlord does nothing well.

3.38 With regards improvements that landlords could make, RTOs were most likely to mention improved communication with/between tenants (22%), listening to tenants/ RTO/act on their concerns (14%) and involving tenants in decision-making (7%). By comparison, they were less likely to mention improvements that could be made to other areas: improving the repairs service (15%), dealing with antisocial behaviour (6%) and improving the general maintenance of properties and facilities (5%). Six per cent of RTOs said landlords in their area need to improve their performance on everything.

Comparing satisfaction and importance of services

3.39 In general, those services that tenants and RTOs perceived as being most important also received high satisfaction scores. Further, those services that tenants and RTOs were least likely to be satisfied with were perceived to be less important. However, there were a number of services that did not follow this pattern, namely dealing with anti social behaviour in the tenants' survey and dealing with anti-social behaviour and nuisance neighbours in the RTO survey.

3.40 Figure 3.6 shows that, in the most part, the services tenants perceived as being most important were also among those with the highest satisfaction score. At the same time, those services that tenants were least likely to be satisfied with were also likely to be those that were less important. Dealing with anti-social behaviour is the only service where levels of satisfaction are relatively low vis a vis the relative importance of the service. This notwithstanding, dealing with anti-social behaviour should not be interpreted as being the only service worthy of consideration.

Figure 3.6: Tenants' priorities by levels of satisfaction

Figure 3.6: Tenants' priorities by levels of satisfaction

3.41 Figure 3.7 shows the equivalent results from the RTO survey 19. Similar to the tenants' results, the service that RTOs were most likely to perceive as important, the provision of good quality accommodation was also the service they were most likely to be satisfied with. However, while dealing with anti-social behaviour and dealing with nuisance neighbours were considered as essential services by around three-quarters of RTOs, they were among the services that they were least likely to be satisfied with and as such are particularly worthy of consideration.

3.42 Such analysis of where services of high priority are rated poorly by users, can help landlords make decisions about where investments need to be made to improve delivery and enhance performance.

Figure 3.7: RTOs' priorities by levels of satisfaction

Figure 3.7: RTOs' priorities by levels of satisfaction

Service specific priorities

3.43 Two of the main ways in which tenants interact with their landlord on a regular basis are via the repairs and customer services. Therefore, experiences of these services are likely to have a considerable influence in shaping tenants' perceptions of their landlord's overall performance. Accordingly, in order to identify the priorities for these services, tenants and RTOs were asked which specific aspects of these services were most important.

Experience of the repairs service

3.44 Nearly two thirds (65%) of tenants had a day-to-day repair completed in the last 12 months. The repairs most commonly completed related to plumbing (33%), gas and heating (not including the annual gas safety check) (22%), carpentry (17%) and electrical issues (10%).

Importance of aspects of the repairs service

3.45RTOs were considerably more likely than tenants to perceive each aspect of the repairs service as a priority, with a majority of RTOs rating all but three aspects of the repairs service as essential (see Figure 3.8). However, the priorities of tenants and RTOs for the repairs service were broadly the same. The aspects both groups were most likely to identify as being essential were related to the fundamental aspects of the repairs service upon which successful completion of the job depends, including getting the job done right first time, the quality of repair work, being told when contractors will call and the repair work being finished within a reasonable period. By comparison, both groups were less likely to feel that more customer-service related, or less fundamental, aspects of the repairs service were essential: keeping dirt and mess to a minimum; polite staff; and speed with which phones are answered.

Figure 3.8: Essential aspects of the repairs service

Figure 3.8: Essential aspects of the repairs service

3.46 Working tenants were more likely than non-working tenants to say that it is essential or very important to be told when contractors will call (86% compared to 74%), being able to choose a time slot when contractors will call (80% compared to 61%) and getting the job done first time (91% compared to 81%). These findings are unsurprising given the greater planning that would be required to fit repairs around work commitments, be it arranging the day off work or organising someone to be at home when the repairs are being carried out.

3.47 The prioritisation of the fundamental aspects of the repairs service was also apparent in focus groups. Although tenants identified having good quality accommodation as their key overall service priority, it was felt that having a home that was fit for purpose was heavily dependent on it being in a good state of repair and, thus, their landlord providing an effective day-to-day repairs service. Most participants had had a negative experience relating to their landlord's repairs service. In the most part, discussions about the repairs service revolved around three key issues:

  • First, many tenants believed that landlords were not effectively dealing with repairs in the home or not dealing with them sufficiently first time around.

"I had mould on my kitchen wall and the Clerk or Works came up and looked at it and said we'll just put up a false wall" (Fraserburgh).

"I mean they come in, they knock the plaster off the wall, they re-plaster it; oh, it's lovely, they put the stuff on. Six months later black patch is back again." (Kilmarnock)

  • Second, tenants discussed how they were dissatisfied with the length of time they needed to wait before repairs are carried out, in some cases, for repairs perceived to be urgent.

"Length of time you wait for the repairs. I've actually been waiting from 7th December to get the damp, my living room has actually got black mould and I've got three kids and I'm waiting to get that" (Kilmarnock).

  • Third, some participants spoke with frustration at times when they had arranged appointment times for repairs but contractors did not turn up for the appointment.

"[They] send you a letter saying they are coming to do a job and that date has passed and you phone in and you have to wait another couple of months before they appear at your door. They always forget they've got to come to your house" (Fraserburgh).

Experience of customer services

3.48 Relative to other services, customer services were perceived to less of a priority to tenants overall. Nevertheless, tenants and RTOs use this service regularly, with just over three quarters (76%) of tenants and most (90%) RTOs having contacted their landlord in the last 12 months. Given the regularity at which a large proportion of tenants interact with their landlord, we asked a set of questions about priorities of different aspects of customer services.

Reasons and methods used for contacting landlords

3.49 Nearly three quarters (74%) of tenants who had contacted their landlord in the last 12 months did so about repairs. Other reasons tenants had for contacting their landlord were considerably less common. By comparison, RTOs who had contacted landlords in their area in the last 12 months had done so for a wide range of reasons. While, similar to tenants, the main reason was queries relating to repairs (19%), other common reasons included discussing issues raised at tenants' meetings (17%) and discussing a programme of improvements and upgrades (11%).

3.50 By far the most common method of contact used by tenants who had contacted their landlord was telephone (78%), while 16% visited the office of their landlord. Other methods of contact, including email, were considerably less common.

3.51 Similarly, the most common method of contact used by RTOs 20 who had contacted landlords was telephone (77%). However, unlike tenants, they were also likely to have used a range of other methods. Nearly three-quarters (72%) had contact with their landlord in meetings, while more than half had used other methods, including working groups (60%), forums (59%), email (57%) and visiting the landlord's office (56%). Other less common methods used included writing a letter (45%), a visit from a landlord (34%) and via the landlord's website (13%).

Customer service priorities

3.52 Reflecting the lesser importance attributed to the service overall, relative to aspects of the repairs service, both tenants and RTOs were less likely to rate aspects of customer services as essential. As was the case with ratings of the repairs service, RTOs were considerably more likely than tenants to rate each aspect as essential (see Figure 3.9). Nevertheless, their priorities for customer services were broadly the same, with both groups most likely to rate aspects of customer query handling as essential, including queries being dealt with quickly, the person answering the phone being able to deal with the query and courteous staff. In addition, relative to other aspects, the provision of easy-to-understand information leaflets was also identified as a priority by both groups. By contrast, tenants and RTOs were least likely to rate being able to make contact by email or through a website as an essential aspect of customer services.

Figure 3.9: Essential aspects of customer services

Figure 3.9: Essential aspects of customer services

3.53 There were some differences relating to whether or not tenants had contacted their landlord in the past 12 months. Tenants who had contacted their landlord were more likely than those who had not to rate as essential: courteous staff (25% compared 18%); phones being answered promptly (23% compared to 16%); the person answering the phone being able to deal with the query (25% compared to 18%); and queries being dealt with quickly (27% compared to 21%).

3.54 Most likely a reflection of the lower priority attributed to the service, in focus groups there was very little discussion about customer services. However, when the service was raised in discussions, it tended to be focused on how tenants perceived landlords as 'passing the buck' when it came to complaints or requests for things to be done. Reflecting the two aspects that tenants and RTOs were most likely to perceive as essential - queries being dealt with quickly and the person on the phone being able to deal with the query - there was a feeling that the staff working in customer services would often transfer responsibility to other departments, causing a great deal of frustration to tenants.

"With most of the complaints that you try to bring up, they will go oh no, no, we're the left hand, you want the right hand" (Galashiels).

"One department will say, oh that department should have done this and they say it was their fault. You don't get any further forward" (Dundee).