Repairs & Maintenance

Contents

01   SFA town halls 2024

DIO and their suppliers are hosting town halls for Service personnel and families to talk to senior representatives from DIO, Amey, VIVO and Pinnacle. They want to share updates about work in Service accommodation and hear about your experiences of living in SFA. For details on locations, dates and times please see their poster ‘Attend an SFA town hall near you‘ and email DIO-CorporateComms@mod.gov.uk with your chosen location and time to register.

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02   Get ready for winter

Make sure that your home is as prepared as possible for the colder winter months. See the Pinnacle: Winter in your Service Family Accommodation webpage for tips and guidance on the basic steps you should take now to ensure that you are as ready for winter as possible.

If you have an issue with your boiler or heating, see the Pinnacle: Boilers and Heating webpage.

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03   Broadband boost for Service personnel and their families

Better broadband is on the way for Service personnel and their families. Teams across Defence, working with industry partners, have already improved broadband speeds and reliability for SFA.

Initial studies showed that at the start of 2022 15,000 of the 48,000 SFA were considered ‘disconnected’ — unable to satisfactorily connect to or use the internet consistently. Defence Digital and DIO, supported by the front-line commands, have successfully increased SFA access to better broadband, which is now at 97% coverage.

Plans are in place to connect the remaining homes and get all SFA better broadband by 2025/26.

How can families report a broadband issue?

If you live in SFA and suffer from poor download speeds, please take a screenshot of your speed test along with the time and day of the reading and send this to ukstratcomdd-cis-fc-brdbnd@mod.gov.uk

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04   Oil heating

With the recent increases in fuel bills, families approached AFF concerned about the cost of oil and the challenges of paying the price on the day, rather than being able to budget over the year as you can with a gas or electricity supplier.

In order to gather more evidence, AFF conducted a brief survey in April/May 2022. The survey highlighted the concerns families had, particularly from those unfamiliar with oil heating.

To support families, AFF has produced the following information to assist families in navigating the  potential challenges.

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DIO Accommodation is provisionally planning to phase out all gas and oil boilers from SFA by 2035. The pilot phase of this project is due to complete later this year and AFF will update families once more information is received.

AFF is aware that families living in SFA are unable to make changes to help their home be as energy efficient as possible. However, if you experience any issues such as draughty windows/doors, cold radiators or damp, please report these to Pinnacle to ensure that your home will retain heat to the best of its ability.

Some useful guidance:

  • Ensure that your watchman is working correctly so that you have an accurate idea of the amount of oil you have in your tank – if it isn’t, report it to Pinnacle.
  • Monitor your usage so that you can gauge in plenty of time when you need to reorder to ensure that you aren’t paying for last-minute deliveries.
  • If there are any issues with your oil tank or boiler, report them to Pinnacle as quickly as possible.
  • For security and to help prevent oil theft, we would advise that where possible you use a padlock on your oil tank. Retro-fitting can be requested via the Pinnacle NSC Helpdesk noting that the solution may be a lock on the garden gate rather than the oil tank. You will need to provide the padlock and key.
  • Oil prices are affected by extreme weather, political unrest and global production. However, there is usually a time lag for price increases so keep an eye on these issues if you are close to putting an order in.
  • Individual suppliers may not always be the cheapest option if ordering on your own.
    • Consider researching syndicates in the local area (civilian as well)
    • If there are a number of you on the estate using oil consider setting up a syndicate to get a better deal by bulk ordering
    • Look at going further by considering getting your syndicate to join a Buyers’ Group
    • Look at comparison sites, e.g. Boiler Juice as they often have better prices.
  • If you know you will be in the same home over the winter, consider bulk buying in the summer when prices are historically cheaper.
  • Don’t let your tank get too low – especially in winter.
  • Set up a direct debit (either with a supplier or comparison website or simply to yourself into a savings account) so that you aren’t hit with a huge bill each time you need to reorder.
  • Get multiple quotes and don’t be afraid to negotiate!
  • Make sure that you record the oil level at move in and move out – if possible take photos.

Yes. If you leave more/less oil than you had recorded at move-in you will be credited/debited accordingly. If you can produce your invoice from the last time the tank was filled, the refund/charge will be applied at that rate; if you are unable to produce an invoice the refund/charge will be made based on the current UK average home heating prices according to the boilerjuice website.

If you are waiting for reconciliation following move out, please contact Pinnacle to ensure the request is in the system and do let AFF know by emailing housingsupport@aff.org.uk

The government Energy Bill Support Scheme will be administered through your electricity provider, so all families using civilian electricity providers should see the £400 grant as a credit on their electricity bill from October 2022 onwards. AFF has asked MOD policy how this will be translated for those families on the Fuel Subsidy Scheme and will update you once we know more about this.

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05   Amey and VIVO – the repairs and maintenance contract holders

While you will need to contact Pinnacle to report a repair in your home, depending on where you live it will either be an Amey or VIVO contractor who visits your home to fix the issue and at some points you will be contacted by them rather than Pinnacle.

See the VIVO area map.

 

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06   Reporting a fault in your home

Call Pinnacle National Service Centre (NSC) on 0800 031 8628 (option 1) or 0161 605 3517 if calling from overseas.

For other ways to log a repair via email or Home Hub, visit pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk/contact-us

Try to give the staff at the NSC as much information as possible about the issue – in time you will be able to upload photos and videos via the Home Hub which will be released in the near future. The more information you can give the better placed the contractor will be to repair the problem first time.

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07   Repair priorities

If you have vulnerable people (young children, elderly person or someone with disabilities) living with you be sure to let the HSC staff know as this can affect your priority category.

Emergency (make safe resolution only)

Response time – respond and make safe within 2 hours.

An emergency is an incident occurring on the affected property which:

  • Threatens imminent risk or injury to persons
  • Presents a high risk of extensive damage to property or the environment

After the situation is made safe the repair will be given an Urgent or Routine category as appropriate.

An Emergency incident may also be coupled to a call out of the emergency services or a utility provider.

Urgent

The RAMS supplier (Amey or Vivo depending on region) will attend and fix the repair within 48 hours.

This category applies when there is significant damage or defect, or imminent threat of substantial damage, to an SFA that makes it unsuitable for habitation or is causing severe inconvenience or hardship to the residents. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Loss of heating during winter months (31 October to 1 May) or at any time if there is a vulnerable person in residence such as a child under 2 years, an elderly person or a person with additional needs.
  • A blocked main drain, soil pipe or flue.
  • An unusable toilet if it is the only one available in the home.

Total loss of, or a major fault with, the electrical supply within the home (civilian utility providers will be responsible for resolving any loss of supply to the home where relevant).

Routine

The RAMS supplier (Amey or VIVO depending on region) will attend and rectify the problem within 12 working days.

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08   Reporting a fault in an SSFA via Mears

Call the Mears helpline on 0800 032 4547 or email repairs.enquiry@mearsgroup.co.uk

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09   Mears repair timelines

If you live in Substitute Service Family Accommodation (SSFA) (a hiring) in the UK, the response times for repairs are as follows:

Repair & maintenance targets

  • Emergency e.g. imminent risk of injury, three-hour response to make safe. Once the situation is made safe, it downgrades to Critical, Urgent or Routine and the time scales that go with it.
  • Critical e.g. Unusable WC, bath or shower, response in three hours and resolved in 12 hours. Full repair or temporary repair to down grade to Urgent or Routine.
  • Urgent e.g. partial loss of hot water, permanent repair to be carried out in five business days
  • Routine e.g. for those instances not covered by other definitions of Critical Emergency or Urgent, a full permanent repair to be carried out within 15 business days.
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10   Can you arrange maintenance yourself?

Families living in SFA have a free maintenance service with clear published response levels dependent on the seriousness of the issue. Whilst you may wish to speed up this process, you should never arrange for third party contractors to come in as this work cannot be guaranteed and will not be paid for by MOD. Please call the Pinnacle National Service Centre on 0800 031 8628 (or the designated maintenance team if you live in a PFI, bulk lease hiring or out of the UK) to report all maintenance.

Service Family Accommodation Customer Service Charter

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11   Compulsory safety checks

Amey and VIVO have a duty of care to carry out certain safety checks on your property such as the annual gas/oil fired boiler inspections and periodic electrical inspections.

You will be sent a letter by Pinnacle requesting access for these inspections – please make sure that you respond to these quickly to arrange an appointment.

These appointments are vital for your safety and those of your neighbours – as such, the soldier should be able to take time off work to attend these appointments; please clear this with your chain of command first!

There is now a rigid process in place in order to make sure that these inspections get done – the end result could be that your local contractor/DIO will legally force entry (after engagement with your chain of command) to carry out the inspections if you continually refuse to allow entry or do not arrange/keep appointments and you will be responsible for the cost of repairing the locks etc.

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12   Your home, who is responsible?

DIO has developed an Accommodation Charter, which outlines the responsibilities of everyone –  when it comes to accommodation.

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13   Families' responsibilities

Ensure that you aren’t calling for something which you are responsible for e.g. replacement locks if you get locked out or changing fuses or standard light bulbs.

Who changes the lightbulbs?
Families, unless it’s a strip light or specialist bulb that suppliers must replace

Who fixes your broken fence?
The local supplier (Amey or VIVO) but it must be reported via pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk

Who looks after your shed?
The local supplier (Amey or VIVO) but it must be reported via pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk but only if it was present at move-in

Who fixes existing outside taps?
The local supplier (Amey or VIVO)

Who provides the lampshades?
Families

What happens if I lose my keys?
Families will need to replace keys/call a locksmith. But if a key breaks in the lock, contact Pinnacle pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk

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14   Windows and child restrictors

If you have small children or vulnerable adults in the house, it is a good idea to regularly check that any window restrictors you have in place are working. Although there is no legislative requirement, British Standards state that where restrictors are fitted they should limit the initial movement to no more than 100mm.

If any restrictors are not working or open more than 100mm, please call Pinnacle to report them.

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15   Stay secure

There have been reports of incidents where people have tried to gain unauthorised access to Service Family Accommodation.

All families are advised that it is unusual for Pinnacle/Amey/VIVO or Defence Infrastructure Organisation staff to turn up unannounced. We ask that all families remain vigilant when receiving unexpected visits and ask to see identification.

If you receive an unexpected request to undertake work and wish to check credentials, please call the Pinnacle NSC on 0800 031 8628.

If you have any concerns about your security, contact the police or your local security section/guardroom immediately; any additional information regarding description of callers and vehicle details may assist in any subsequent investigation.

In addition, if you see any suspicious activity in your area, including people or vehicles, please take the details and pass them to the police or security section. Do not potentially put yourself in danger by confronting anyone.

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16   Carbon monoxide; detection is vital

Recently AFF was made aware of a family who had experienced a leak of carbon monoxide (CO) – thanks to CO detectors in the house, they were alerted to the issue and no harm was done.

“Families are reminded that it is a legal requirement for their gas boiler to have an annual gas inspection and test, and an occupant’s responsibility under their Licence to Occupy to provide access for these tests, which are free and could protect your family. During these tests the CO detector and smoke alarms will also be tested and replaced if required.” 

As of 2017, DIO updated their policy for fitting carbon monoxide detectors. Detectors will now be fitted to any room that has a fuel burning device (except where all electric). This exceeds current legislation.

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17   Built in appliances

If you have integrated appliances in your SFA eg cooker, washing machine or dishwasher (mainly in new builds), and experience any issues with them, please report it to the Pinnacle NSC on 0800 031 8628. Cookers will be repaired or replaced, however, other integrated appliances will be removed and a space left for your own white goods.

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18   Smoke detectors

All SFA should have smoke detectors fitted – if you hear it beeping it means the battery needs changing. If you can change it yourself, please do so or call Pinnacle to get it done for you. Whatever you do, don’t disconnect it and remember to check them regularly – they could save your life.

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19   Lost external door keys

While the contract means that if you call Pinnacle they will organise for the local contractor to repair broken or damaged locks (including where a key may have snapped in the actual lock), it doesn’t cover lost keys. If you are unfortunate enough to lose a key, you will be responsible for replacing it and, if necessary, the lock at your own expense using a private locksmith.

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20   Smart meters

If you live in SFA you are entitled to request that your utility provider installs a smart meter. This will not need to be removed when you leave the property.

NB: a smart meter is different to a pre-payment meter, which MUST be removed before move-out to avoid facing a charge.

Find out more about installing a smart meter, and general information about utility bills.

 

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21   Pest control advice

Pest control concerns should be reported to Pinnacle via pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk.

The call handlers will ask a number of questions to decide the priority.

  • Routine – 12 working days
  • Urgent – as soon as possible within 48 hours

Call handlers will then book an appointment with Amey or Vivo to attend within the appropriate timeframes.

There are some basic prevention tips that you can use to help deter some pests such as:

  • Clean and vacuum regularly, especially crumbs and spillages in the kitchen. Dust includes shed skin which some pests can use as a food source.
  • Make sure that all household rubbish is kept in a bin with a securely fitting lid – pests will see bins as an all you can eat buffet! For external bins, try to keep them away from the house and never leave a bin bag out in the open.
  • Some pests like fleas or bed bugs can be brought into the house on furniture, bedding or luggage so if you are moving items from one house (or hotel) to another or buying second-hand furniture, make sure there aren’t any hitchhikers.
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Pest: Bed bugs
Priority: Routine

Pest: Carpet beetles
Priority: Routine

Pest: Wasps
Priority: If outside – Routine
Priority: If inside and an active nest – Urgent

Pest: Cockroaches
Priority: Urgent

Pest: Rats and rodents
Priority: If outside and multiple rodents seen – Routine
Priority: If inside and visible – Urgent
Priority: If inside and unable to be seen – Routine

Pest: Ants, bugs and beetles
Priority: Routine – must be an active nest for it to be raised as a job

Pest: Bees
Priority: External to property – out of scope
Priority: Internal and active nest – Urgent
Priority: Internal (i.e. in cavity wall and not posing risk) – Routine

Pest: Fleas
If family have pets – family’s responsibility
Priority: If no pets and moved in within 14 days – Routine

Pest: Spiders
Won’t be attended, family to manage themselves

Pest: Glis Glis
Priority: In loft space – Routine
Priority: In living space – Urgent

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22   Preventing Legionnaires’ disease

Although the UK has one of the safest water systems in the world, there are some slight risks that we all need to guard against. One of these is Legionella bacteria which can cause Legionnaires’ disease. While the risk of this bacteria in your home is very low, it is sensible to take the following precautionary action to maintain that position, particularly if you are returning home after a period of absence.

When returning to your house, please run your bath, shower and taps on hot and cold (hot first if a mixer tap) for a minimum of five minutes. This will flush through any form of bacteria and help prevent Legionnaires’ disease occurring.

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23   Electric vehicle charging point update

As a result of prioritising funding for major work such as tackling damp and mould in homes, DIO has temporarily paused funding for installation of electric vehicle charging points (EVCPs).

Pinnacle will still be recording EVCP requests and these will then be prioritised by date of request for installation when funding restarts. Families who would like to be on the waiting list should email Pinnacle Home Services at HomeServices@pinnacleservicefamilies.co.uk

There is no date yet for funded installations to restart. If you wish to install your own charging point you are now able to use the encroachment form on the Pinnacle website to request permission.

Pinnacle will assess your application and, if your SFA is considered suitable, will give permission. You will be authorised to contact a certified EVCP installer who must be approved by the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (OZEV). Details of certified OZEV installers can be found at GOV.UK: Find an electric vehicle (EV) chargepoint installer. Remember to keep copies of all EVCP paperwork.

You may be eligible for a grant to help pay for the installation, see GOV.UK: Electric vehicle chargepoint grant for renters and flat owners. If you are eligible for the grant Pinnacle will be able to supply supporting information for your claim as a renter.

All EVCP installations undertaken by an OZEV approved and certified installer can be left in place and will not need to be removed at move-out. However, should you wish to remove the EVCP prior to move-out, you will need to contact a National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting (NICEIC) approved and certified electrician to ensure it is safely removed.  Families will be liable for any damage caused by the installation, use, or removal of EVCPs they have installed themselves.

Not all SFA are suitable for EVCP installations (as a general rule of thumb you will not be given permission if the cable has to cross over a public footpath or an open grass area which DIO and its contractors maintain) so it is best to check whether your SFA is suitable before you buy an electric car. Bear in mind that even if your current SFA is suitable for an EVCP, your next may not be and you will need to consider how you will charge your vehicle at future locations.

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24   DIO information

See the latest and most up to date information from DIO and check it regularly to keep up to date.

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25   AFF in Action – oil filled radiators vs electric fan heaters

Families came to AFF with concerns over the electric heaters provided by Amey when a boiler fails. They felt they weren’t safe if you have small children and didn’t produce much heat.

So we campaigned for Amey to provide an alternative to the electric fan heaters (in the event of a boiler failure) and are delighted to report that Amey have agreed to trial oil filled radiators in those parts of the country which are under the Liberty Gas contract (South East, South West and East regions). The intention is that they will be used under the new FDIS contract. The AFF Housing Specialist road tested the first oil filled radiator and was pleased with the amount of heat it provided compared to an electric fan heater. The only things to be aware of are:

  • When you initially turn them on they can make a bubbling sound – this is the oil heating up and nothing to worry about.
  • During the first time of use it emits a slightly odd smell but that goes after a while and is worth putting up with to get warm!

 

 

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