Anexo Group tackling housing disrepair claims in social housing and private renting (LON:ANX)

Housing disrepair

Anexo Group plc (LON:ANX) Head of Investor Relations Nick Dashwood Brown caught up with DirectorsTalk for an exclusive interview to discuss it’s new housing disrepair team, legislation, how they find claims, the potential market and whether landlords are pushing back.

Q1: Anexo Group, this week, announced the formation of a new team within its legal services division, Bond Turner, to deal with claims arising from housing disrepair. Nick, what sort of housing disrepair are we actually talking about?

A1: There’s a number of different types of housing disrepair. Firstly, we are looking at dilapidation of property so there are a lot of properties out there where for instance, the windows are rotting and there’s drafts coming through there. There are other things which are not up to scratch, including some of the facilities are very outdated and possibly not working properly. On top of that, there’s obviously problems with damp and mold growth which are defined as a category 1 hazard and make houses unhealthy for the inhabitants.

Q2: Is there legislation around this?

A2: Number one in terms of legislation, there’s a thing called the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act, which came into force in 2019. That acts to ensure that rented houses and flats are fit for human habitation and, ultimately, the act gives more power to tenants to take action against landlords who are negligent in taking care of their responsibilities.

On top of that, there’s a government standard called the Decent Homes Standard and that’s defined by central government. This means a home is something which is acceptable for people to live in, which includes things like the facilities have to be of a reasonable age, it has to provide reasonable thermal comfort and that the facilities as such that you would expect to have in a house, which is rented either to adults or to children or a combination of both.

Q3: Now, you’re normally focused on non-fault accidents so how will you find your claims for this?

A3: There’s two primary ways of doing this.

Number one, we do social media campaigns, we’ve done these with a number of other issues in the past and those have proven to be very effective.

The second thing is of course, that there is a certain amount of overlap that a number of our customers, because we concentrate on the impious market in terms of non-fault accidents, it’s just a fact that a number of our customers will be an occupant of either social or rented private housing. Therefore there’s a certain amount of cross-referencing that goes on there and we do get some of our cases internally.

Q4: How big do you think the potential market is?

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A4: Well, in terms of the Decent Homes Standard, about 500,000 social housing dwellings and about 1 million private rent dwellings don’t meet that standard. On top of that, about 200,000 social housing dwellings, and about 500,000 private rentals dwellings have what’s called a category 1 hazard, which is damp and mold growth.

So, add those together, it’s a reasonable number and, in theory, we’re looking at potentially 200,000/250,000 claims over the year and if we could get a very small market share of that, even a 1% share of that, would be very considerable in terms of the use of our team’s time and also potentially as a contribution to group revenues.

Q5: How long do you think a claim will take to settle?

A5: In terms of the claims to settle so far, and the team’s been up and running for a while, we are settling claims on a regular basis every month, it looks to us as though the settlement period is considerably less than the period, we tend to get for our credit hire business in terms of non-fault accidents.

So, I wouldn’t like to put a hard and task figure on it, but I would suggest somewhere between 200 and 220 days to settle, which is less than half of what a typical credit hire case would take.

It’s a relatively straightforward business in the sense that the surveyor’s report goes in, which is difficult to argue with and from then on, it’s a relatively straightforward process in terms of chasing it.

Q6: Finally, do Anexo Group get a lot of pushback then from landlords?

A6: We, we haven’t really so far. Some landlords are obviously negligent, some landlords are just, in my view and this is my own word and not the company’s, a bit inefficient and sometimes they need a reminder that things being done because something gets reported to them and they put something gets put on their to-do list and it doesn’t get done. Obviously, things have not been helped by the pandemic because obviously access to buildings has been restricted and getting workman to do the work has also been restricted.

By and large, I think it’s fair to say that if a problem is brought to a landlord’s attention, then it does get dealt with, and if they’re being dilatory in dealing with it, then there’s nothing like a solicitor’s letter to speed up the process.

So, by and large, we found that landlords, specifically commercial landlords within the social housing sector so housing associations, the one thing they don’t particularly want is bad publicity, which comes from not dealing with tenants problems.

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