When things go wrong – information for Dot Dot Dot guardians

What is an emergency, i.e. when to call the out of hours number (given in your welcome pack)?

An emergency is anything that significantly compromises the security or the integrity of the property, including neighbouring properties, which requires immediate assistance. For example, you might experience a sudden leak with water flooding into the property, a significant electrical issue such as sparking, or criminal damage to external doors or windows. In these situations, please immediately call the out of hours number, being sure to call the police first if the issue concerns security.

How to deal with non-emergency maintenance issues?

Please contact us in working hours when you first notice a problem, or aren’t sure about anything, we will work with you to resolve or manage things as best as possible, as quickly as possible.

Sometimes problems can be a little more complicated than they might seem, and some detective work is involved! So it is important to provide us with as much detail as possible of the problem when you initially contact us so we can advise you and plan a course of action.

What should you not try to tackle yourselves?

  • Anything electrical or to do with gas;
  • Anything where you don’t feel confident or may either harm yourself or make the problem worse;
  • Anything which significantly disturbs the existing fabric of the building.

What you can expect from us?

Dot Dot Dot cooperates with the landlords we work with for all repairs. Your accommodation should always be safe, secure and hygienic, with electricity, gas (where appropriate) and hot and cold running water, and we will coordinate repairs to ensure that these standards are maintained. We cannot guarantee that repairs will be provided when none of these aspects are compromised, but we may be able to help on a case by case basis.

What happens with more significant repairs?

Please also be aware that a choice may have to be made (by Dot Dot Dot or by the property owner) either to cover the cost of resolving the problem, or – if this is too expensive – to ask guardians to move out and to manage the security of the flat by another method, such as boarding it up.  We are always keen to avoid this outcome, but please be aware that this may be a last resort.

Our policy is to place an appropriate number of guardians in each property so that the household generally have a living room, rather than placing people to sleep in rooms that are designed to be living rooms.  However, if a repair problem makes a bedroom in the property hard to occupy temporarily, we may ask a guardian to move their bedroom to the living room until the problem is resolved.

Common problems and what to do:

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Leaks/Flooding

What can happen?

Leaks vary hugely in scale, from the sudden appearance of a significant flow of water dripping through the ceiling, creating flooding within a flat and problems for the neighbours beneath, to a slow dripping radiator where the water can be caught in a bowl underneath which is changed every few days.

What are the causes?

Significant flows of water are likely to be caused by overflowing or rusted water tanks/cylinders, or broken pipes belonging to upstairs neighbours. Depending on the location of a flat, they can also be caused by rainwater from blocked guttering or broken roofs. Smaller more gradual leaks often develop at the corroded joints of pipework.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • Contact Dot Dot Dot immediately, using the contact details we have provided you with, especially if it is a significant flow of water liable to cause flooding and problems for the neighbours below you.
  • If the water is coming through your ceiling, we would also expect you to politely knock on the doors of the flat above you to ascertain where the water is coming from, and get the name and telephone number of the occupiers. Depending on the type of leak, the occupier can often be completely unaware of the water that is coming from their flat.
  • Mop up and place buckets and bowls to try capture as much water as possible, and prevent further flooding.
  • If the leak is much less significant, or localised to a pipe in your flat, you still need to report this to us and find a way of capturing any water.
  • If the leak is coming from you flat, attempt to locate the stop cock that will turn the supply of water off.
  • You will need to make yourself available to give access to a plumber if one is booked, depending on the severity of the leak.

 What action will we then take?

  • If it is an emergency, we will call the repairs team emergency plumber on your behalf. They will need access to the property at the source of the leak (which is why it is so important to knock on doors).
  • With less significant leaks, we will work with you to identify and manage the problem. This might entail a Dot Dot Dot staff member visiting the property to investigate.
  • Where appropriate, we will book a plumber to fix the problem. This may take several days to book in, and we will do our best to book the timeslot that is most convenient for you facilitate access to the flat.

Blocked Drainage

What can happen?

You might find that your sink is struggling to drain, or is blocked. Or the toilet may be affected. If you have a washing machine, it might be draining into your sink, or overflowing.

What are the causes?

There is a blockage either in the u-bend or further down the sink or toilet. With kitchen sinks this is commonly caused by food substances being washed down the plug hole, or cooking oils, that congeal into fat and coat the waste pipe. Similarly, with the toilet this can be due to a build-up of sanitary products or other material that is not meant to be flushed away, or due to a weak or inadequate flush mechanism on the toilet.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • Immediately stop putting any more water/substances down the sink/toilet if it is completely blocked.
  • For blocked kitchen or bathroom sinks, we’d expect you to first try to plunge the sink, being sure to create a vacuum using a little water in the sink, and a damp cloth to cover the overflow hole. If you contact us, we will happily talk through how to do this with you.  Remember, if you have a washing machine, it uses the same waste water pipe as your kitchen sink – please don’t use it as it is liable to cause an overflow and flooding.
  • For a blocked bathroom sink, we’d suggested using an alternative sink in the property.
  • For a blocked toilet we’d expect you to contact us immediately.

 What action will we then take?

  • For a blocked kitchen sink or blocked toilet, we will do our best to arrange a plumber to be sent to fix it as soon as possible (although if the problem is complex, this could take some time, and more than one visit), and you will be required to facilitate access.

Mould/Dampness

What can happen?

Excessive dampness in properties can result in the growth of black mould on ceilings, walls and in cupboards. Mould can be a health hazard.  We do not place people in properties that are significantly damp or mouldy, and we will work with guardians to mould that may appear once they are in place.

What are the causes?

Poorly insulated ceilings, faulty roofs, and poor air circulation. The problem is particularly prevalent in the cold and wet winter months, when guardians must take care to avoid dampness caused by condensation.

An underlying leak might also be responsible for localised damp/mould.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • Clean off mould and use anti-fungal paint, where possible.
  • Keep a window ajar if it does not compromise security within the property.
  • Keep the flat heated, where possible.
  • Use a dehumidfier, where possible.

What action will we then take?

  • Where there are issues with roofing and insulation, we will take this up with the property owner and get it fixed wherever possible.
  • Investigate any underlying leaks, and take it up with the property owner.

Hot Water Problems

What can happen?

The flat does not appear to have hot water, or the water is too hot.

What are the causes?

It depends on how water is heated in your flat. In some of our flats the hot water is provided by a central heating plant within the building, then pumped to individual flats where it is stored in a hot water cylinder. In other flats, water isheated by a water heater or a gas boiler.

If you do not have hot water, it can either be because the central plant has broken, which would mean everyone would have the same problem. More likely, you will have a flat where you have a water heater or gas boiler that is not switched on or is broken.

If your water is too hot, it might be that your hot water cylinder is heating water that has already been heated by the central plant.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • If the water is not hot, check that your boiler, water heater, or hot water cylinder is switched on, and if the circuit for the water heater has been tripped in the fuse box.
  • If the water is too hot, try switching off the hot water cylinder which usually runs off electricity and has an on/off switch.
  • Report it to us.

What action will we then take?

If the hot water isn’t working, and the problem is within your flat, we will try to arrange for a plumber to come and fix it, and you will be required to facilitate access.

 

Heating Problems

What can happen?

The most common problems associated with heating are faulty radiators that either do not work, or cannot be turned down or off, creating flats or rooms in flats that are too cold or too warm.

What are the causes?

A non-functioning radiator can be caused by a broken individual radiator thermostat, a shut valve on the previous radiator in the circuit that cuts off water supply, excess air in the system that needs to be bled, or general problems with the gas boiler (if the flat has one) or hot water cylinder. The heating might also be controlled by a general thermostat that might be faulty.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • Investigate what the problem is likely to be, checking individual radiator valves and thermostats, a general thermostat or heating control, or the boiler (if the flat has one).
  • Report the problem to us.
  • Use a substitute heating source if necessary, such as an oil filled plug in heater.
  • Bleed the radiator in question. Contact us if you need advice on how to do this.

What action will we then take?

  • We will firstly investigate the problem ourselves, and identify any quick fixes.
  • We cannot guarantee to provide maintenance to heating systems –  and generally we will not request repairs for individual radiators, or where it remains possible to reasonably comfortably live in the property without heating.

Anti-Social Behaviour and crime

What can happen?

Many of our units are flats within larger blocks, housing a diverse mixture of tenants, leaseholders, and other types of short-term occupiers. Outside the building, you might experience groups of youths that congregate in certain areas. Or you might find yourself living in a building where there are a significant number of empty properties that attract unwanted attention. Stairwells and common areas within buildings can also attract congregations of people and various unsavoury uses.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • Report it, both to the numbers that you are provided with in the handbook, and directly to us.
  • If you witness anything illegal, report it to the police immediately.
  • Do not let strangers into the building.
  • Do not do anything that compromises your safety.

What action will we then take?

  • We will report anything that is reported to us directly to the landlord.
  • We will advise you on any measures to increase your personal security.
  • We will liaise with ASB officers, local police and neighbourhood groups to gather all the information we can about any local issues and we will work with them and with you to resolve these issues wherever possible.
  • We will not place guardians in properties where we have particular reasons to think it is likely that they will be at risk of harm, and we will pass on any information we have that is relevant to your safety.

Pests

What can happen?

You may suffer problems with mice, cockroaches, bed bugs, or other common household pests.

What do we expect you to do about it?

  • With mice, and cockroaches, keep the common areas clean, lay traps, alert us if the problem deteriorates.
  • With bed bugs, alert us immediately, and be aware of the hazards of spreading them to different parts of the property, or other properties.

What action will we then take?

  • With mice and cockroaches, we may ask you to contact a pest control agency if the problem deteriorates.
  • With bed bugs, we will organise with you to arrange a pest control visit as soon as it is possible.

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