Why do councils and housing associations throw away good quality curtains and furniture?

An interesting report from Orbit Housing Association. They have undertaken a pilot where “all furnishings, flooring and window coverings” in good condition left behind by old tenants are
offered to the new tenants.

Orbit says this saves money for them as well as the new tenants.

The report says:

  • Retain good quality flooring and window coverings in properties and gift them to incoming customers at the time of re-letting
  • Provide furniture packs for those who are struggling financially
  • Promote affordable and accessible alternatives to high street lenders and weekly payment retailers
  • Ensure all properties are secure, including access to and from communal blocks and communal areas are well maintained

Poverty leaves many people living in social housing little means of buying decent, essential furnishings for their home. Across the UK, less than 2% of social housing stock is furnished despite furnished tenancies topping tenants’ priorities for social landlords to tackle their financial exclusion . Research shows that 47% of social tenants want landlords to provide furniture directly and a further 36% would like help with furniture in some way.

Historically across the sector, all furnishings, flooring and window coverings are removed from a property regardless of quality when a customer moves out and the property becomes void.

In January 2017, we ran a pilot project in Stratford-upon-Avon, which tested the process and impact of leaving good quality floor and window coverings in our properties. This included carpets, laminate floors, tiled floors, blinds and curtains.

Under the pilot, a visual inspection was undertaken by the Property Services team and if they deemed the item to be in good condition, customers were given the choice as to whether they would like to retain them. If the answer is yes, Orbit would ensure that the items were professionally cleaned and left for the incoming customer. The customer was asked to sign a form gifting them the items. Positive impact Over the course of the 12 month pilot, 47 customers benefited from gifted items, with the median replacement value in the region of £500.

Here’s what some of our customers had to say:

  • “Nice gesture of Orbit and makes you want to look after the place and take care of it.”
  • “When the housing officer said that we could keep furnishings it was a huge weight off our shoulders.”
  • “I am pretty chuffed…it makes a huge difference and [moving in] a lot less stressful.”

There are clear cost and time savings from a reduced workload on the Property Services team. For a typical three bed property, the savings amount to around £200. There has also been no negative impact on void turnaround times. Following its success, this process has now been rolled out across all Orbit operating areas. This is a small change in process which has a huge, beneficial impact on both customers and the business.”

I have asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council if we could follow this example.

Of course it is something for other housing associations to pursue as well. I remember that when Shepherd’s Bush Housing Association had some flats in Hamlet Gardens residents were dismayed with the frequency with which virtually new mattresses were dumped outside whenever a tenancy changed.

One thought on “Why do councils and housing associations throw away good quality curtains and furniture?

  1. I am flabbergasted. Carpets and curtains are thrown away?

    I rented around half-a-dozen different homes in the first 25 years I lived in London. I eventually acquired quite a bit of furniture and preferred to rent unfurnished, but regardless of whether the flat came with a bed and dining table, they were never empty shells devoid of basic fixtures and fittings like lightshades, carpets and curtains.

    I have an even better idea for Orbit. Instead of going through the tortuous process described, how about investing in a normal range of fixtures and fittings required to make a place habitable? You know, like what happens in the awful, exploitative private rented sector.

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