Frequently Asked Questions – for customers

Q1. Why are we writing to customers about estate services contracts?
A. All of the current estate services (cleaning and grounds maintenance) contracts are coming to an end on 31 March 2019. However, we are able to extend most of these contracts for up to two years. In order to ensure a smooth roll out of the new contracts, we are phasing the changing of the contractors. This means that the:

  • South region will have new contracts at the start of April 2019
  • North and East region will be extended for one year until March 2020
  • West region will be extended for two years until March 2021.

Because of the amount of money the contracts are worth, and the length of the contracts involved, we will have to retender these contracts formally through a ‘qualifying long term agreement’ . This is a contact that will provide a service for more than 12 months.

To do this, we need to consult with customers (leaseholders and some of our tenants) who pay a variable service charge. This is called a Section 20 consultation. As a courtesy, we have also written to our fixed service charge customers to keep them informed.

Q2. What is involved in the Section 20 consultation?
A. If customers pay more than £100 a year for their share of the cleaning and grounds maintenance carried out under a long term contract, we must comply with Service Charge Regulations. There are two stages to this process.

Stage 1: We must write to all customers to advise them of the service to be retendered. This is a Notice of Intention.

Customers are given 30 days to respond and raise observations about the notice. Customers are not asked to select a contractor, as the contract will be advertised in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Stage 2: Customers receive a Notice of Proposal. This will say which contractor has been selected and, if possible, the estimated cost of the services. There will be a further 30 day period for customers to raise observations. We will also provide details nearer the time of how and where customers can view the proposed changes.

Q3. Why have we written to customers who pay a fixed service charge?
A. We recognise clean and tidy communal areas are important to our customers, and we’re committed to involving customers in this process. If they would like to help shape these services for the future, they can do so via the Customer Hubb.

Q4. How do customers take part in the consultation?
A. Customers who pay a variable service charge must complete and return the observation form included with their letter.

Q5. How long will the new contracts last?
A. We are proposing to appoint contractors for a minimum of five years and a maximum of nine years. The exact duration will be confirmed in the Notice of Proposal. However, any contract will be subject to the performance of the appointed contractor.

Q6. Why are we procuring large contracts for a long period of time?
A. Larger contracts over a longer period of time attract more competitive rates than a smaller, annual contract, particularly in the current market.

Q7. What is communal cleaning and what will customers receive at their property?
A. Depending on what is present at the property, communal cleaning consists of cleaning areas of a building that are commonly used areas by customers (generally internally), such as:

  • Entrance halls
  • Corridors
  • Landings
  • Lifts
  • Staircases

The contractor will vacuum any carpeted areas, clean any hard floors and surfaces such as stairways, window sills, skirting, radiators etc, clean any communal windows, and clean any bin store areas.

Q8. What is grounds maintenance and what will customers receive at their property?
A. Depending on what is present at the property, grounds maintenance usually consists of:

  • Cutting and neatly edging all grass areas
  • Removing plants growing up the side of buildings
  • Maintaining beds, shrubbery or borders by removing weeds, applying fertiliser or mulch
  • Cutting hedges
  • Sweeping hard surfaces, including any playgrounds
  • Litter picking
  • Managing any trees present and identifying specialist works for a tree surgeon

Q9. Will our current contractors be considered during the process?
A. Existing contractors will be able to bid for the new contracts.

Q10. How many contractors will be providing the service?
A. There will be one contract for cleaning services and one for grounds maintenance services for each area. Each of these is called a ‘lot’, and consists of a number of local authority areas. A contractor may be appointed to both contracts, therefore lots will have a minimum of one, and a maximum of two, contractors covering these services at our properties.

Q11. How much will the cleaning and grounds maintenance cost customers personally?
A. It is not possible to provide an estimate at this stage, but our aim is to deliver a quality, responsive estates service that demonstrates Value for Money and has clear, measurable standards. Whilst we may be able to give an estimate of the costs in the Notice of proposal, we won’t know the exact cost per scheme until the tenders are approved.

Q12. How will we monitor the contractors and deal with any issues?
A. Overall contact performance is subject to constant monitoring through estate inspections and regular contract performance meetings. The contracts are also reviewed annually by our Directors. These meetings will address any performance issues, and set agreed timeframes for compliance and rectification works. If overall performance fails to meet our requirements after allowing a period for improvement and compliance, or in extreme circumstances where there is a fundamental breach of contract, we could terminate the agreement and award it to another contractor.

Q13. Who should customers contact for further information?
A. A dedicated mailbox has been set up for any queries customers have: estateservices.procurement@stonewater.org