Our service will change in response to Government safety advice but we will continue to support you in responding to the emerging issues and challenges
As you will be aware, the government has now escalated the risk management plan to help to reduce the rate of infection of coronavirus. London – where our offices are based – is deemed to be at particular risk with a higher rate of infection than in other parts of the country. Government advice is now that we should all:
- avoid all non-essential travel;
- avoid non-essential contact with others, particularly those in higher risk groups;
- Work from home wherever possible.
In line with this advice, from now CDS will:
- arrange for all of our staff to work from home;
- stop attendance at all physical meetings;
- manage services through our mobile phone and on-line platforms.
These changes will be effective from 17 March 2020 and will be in place until further notice.
We will be here to help your Co-op to manage the challenges of this outbreak – for your members and your business. If you have any questions at all, please get in touch with your Client Relationship Officer in the first instance who will have up to date information and advice. You can find their contact details via your Chair or here by finding your co-op on our Directory.
We have not taken these steps lightly but want to follow the best government advice about how to reduce the spread of illness for everyone.
For those of you who take repairs services from us, we are working with suppliers to make sure that engineers behave safely for themselves and for residents. This will usually involve
- asking whether anyone is ill or self isolating
- wearing personal protective clothing – such as gloves and masks
- avoiding personal contact
- limiting work to emergency repairs only where people are unwell
We may not always be able to get emergency works carried out if people are ill. We will talk with you personally to agree what happens in those instances.
As the outbreak worsens, we expect that we will have to reduce to an ’emergency only’ repairs service for most customers. Your CRO will keep you informed about this.
We will be trying to bring forward any gas services that we can before the crisis peaks. However, we expect that this will become more difficult as residents – understandably – will not want additional visits to their homes. All landlords want clarity about how we can meet our legal and regulatory requirements during this time. We have asked the National Housing Federation to raise this with government and will keep you informed. For now, you must continue to do all you can to get gas services done on time.
The main change that you will experience is in relation to our attendance at meetings. We will not attend meetings for the time being and we would advise you to think carefully about holding physical meetings during this time.
We fully recognise that meetings will need to be held in order to make decisions and we will be able to support you in doing this through ‘Go to Meeting’ – a platform which allows audio/visual meetings and conferencing. Your CRO will be able to invite members to the meeting through email and anyone with a smartphone or computer will be able to join in. This will be a new approach for most people – so there may be a bit of a learning curve – but it can be very effective as a way to meet without risk. You can see how this platform works here https://www.gotomeeting.com/en-gb
Responsibilities for Staff and Governance
For wider governance and HR issues, Coops UK have issued some useful guidance here: https://www.uk.coop/newsroom/coronavirus
Other Regulatory and Compliance Issues
The Regulator has indicated that it continues to expect registered providers to meet all of the regulatory standards although it will take a proportionate approach to considering its response if there are failures due to Covid-19. We are trying to clarify what this means for property compliance in particular.
We will continue to update client co-ops as we get news and information. In the mean time, you should try to continue to carry out all of the communal compliance work such as fire risk assessments and checks, electrical testing, asbestos testing, lift checks and any water tank tests.
Impact on Residents
We know that residents are going to find it hard to pay rent over the coming months – or longer – as people experience disruption to their work and income. For co-ops, this could mean a significant rise in rent arrears and cash flow. At the moment, although a mortgage holiday has been offered for those who own their homes, there is no clarity about a rent holiday or rent support for those affected.
If we manage your rental income, we will be encouraging residents to let us know at the earliest possible opportunity if they think their income may be affected. This will help us to help them – offering extra support with claims and budgetting – and helping to manage debt issues sensitively – given the limited choices that people have just now. We will want to do this in close co-operation with you to ensure that we also protect your income stream for the co-op as a whole. We are pressing for more action on rent support for those affected and will let you know if anything changes.
All of our team have a dedicated mobile phone and will be available to deal with your queries or service issues during our normal working hours. We will publish a list of contacts for clients and email signatures will include these numbers.
If you have any questions or concerns about the Coronavirus impact for your co-op, please do contact your Client Relationship Officer.
If you cannot get hold of them for any reason and wish to escalate your enquiry, please contact:
Director of Client Services