Housing repairs via the internet

Council tenants in Manchester can now diagnose the cause of faults around their homes and book housing repair appointments with a...

Council tenants in Manchester can now diagnose the cause of faults around their homes and book housing repair appointments with a click of a mouse thanks to the council’s new online software tool.

Manchester City Council worked with web development company Anite to build the Web Repairs system, which is believed to be a first in the management of public sector housing maintenance.

Designed to offer an easy-to-use diagnostic and booking system, the facility is already proving popular with tenants, allowing them to book an appointment for a repair, track the progress of repairs, and check the repair history of their home. As the facility is internet-based, tenants can order repairs even when council offices are closed.

The online system uses a few simple questions to establish the nature and urgency of the repair required. The web-based front-end provides a tool for tenants with varied computer skills, using plain-language questions and flowcharts.

The system includes simple, non-technical graphics to help illustrate problems and an online diary which allows users to book repair appointments in real time.

The tenant inputs data online which is automatically transferred to the council’s back-office systems, ensuring that council contractors have the information they will require when they arrive to carry out the repair.

To help users familiarise themselves with the system, a test facility allows tenants to practice using the system with fictional information. By clicking on the "try it out" button, tenants can experience the system’s functionality, boosting their confidence for when they book an appointment for real.

It is hoped the new system will improve housing maintenance efficiency for Manchester City Council, ensuring that repairs information is automatically channelled to the correct department.

Pete Smart, spokesman for Manchester City Council Housing, says, "This new initiative is helping us to provide a better service to council tenants. It gives them an alternative way to order repairs and gives us consistent, accurate information about the work they need doing.

"The choice of appointments they are offered reflects the urgency of the repair they need and prioritises our resources for doing the work. The system is proving popular and we believe it will become an example of best practice in public sector housing."

John Gibson, managing director of Anite Public Sector, says, "People are used to booking everything from holidays to pizza deliveries on the web and with the Web Repairs system council tenants can arrange repairs to their home just as easily."

The "try it out" facility on Web Repairs is available to anyone logging on to www.manchester.gov.uk/housing/services/index.htm. Click on the "order a repair" button.

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