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The Military Housing Sticking Plaster

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Despite all of the media coverage showcasing just how poorly our military housing is maintained by civilian contractors...


Despite it being raised in the houses of parliament...


Guess what... It’s still pretty bad!


I’ve been thinking about writing a blog about this for a long time but I’ve held off in the hope that things were actually going to get better.


I sat back and watched companies like Pinnacle and Amey get destroyed in the press and on social media thinking surely they’re finally going to make this right, I mean literally everyone is talking about it!


Then last week our heating broke down again. The first time it happened just before Christmas, it was freezing cold, minus 5 to be precise. We had a 3 year old, a 1.5 year old and an 8 week old baby, with no heating or hot water.


Now, having no heating and no hot water with very young children/babies in the house, that’s an emergency isn’t it? Newborn babies need to be kept warm, we can’t exactly just pile blankets on her...


NOPE... It's a 48 hour repair job (what pinnacle class as ‘urgent’) - so we were left for two whole days, living in a freezing cold house with our very young children.


Somebody make it make sense!


Now you may live on civvi street thinking “he’s moaning because his FREE maintenance isn’t good enough”


We hear this so often, a lot of people assume that our accommodation is free. Note, it is not, we do of course have pay to live in these houses.


It would be great if we could take some of the problems into our own hands and just fix them, but do so at your peril because they'd be so quick to jump in and bill us if anything went wrong.


In an ideal world it would be great if we could call out an engineer from say British Gas, get charged the call out and repair fee and then claim it back but that’s a little too sensible... If we did call out a private (non military contract) engineer, then that is considered our personal choice and therefore cannot be refunded. The contractor know they win as a result of this. I'm aware of numerous families who have had to do this to keep a safe warm enough environment for their families in the winter.


Now, we’re actually some of the lucky ones, there have been families living in military housing with far worse problems, just head onto social media or google ‘military housing’ and you’ll see so many cases of how awful the military housing contractors are.


*Note this is not a dig at the actual tradespeople, I do feel for them a lot of the time. They are under so much pressure from the contract, they don’t get allocated long enough for jobs and their resources are limited, they are genuinely trying to make the best of it.


So, back to the start of this blog... The reason for the title is because with the combination of these poor contracts and some very tired old houses, these quick fixes that keep getting done are effectively just a sticking plaster being put over each problem and more often than not, the root cause of the problem is not being fixed.


As I mentioned, this is not the first time our heating has broken, the first time the guy came out and spent barely 10 minutes sorting the problem out... Thanks mate.


When it broke again, my wife explained that it was most likely the same fault as last time and would probably only take minutes to rectify but they just wouldn’t listen.


At the time, I was unfortunately ill in bed with the flu and our children were poorly with colds, we just couldn’t warm the house up. My wife was literally looking out the window all day waiting to flag down a van if she saw one go past.


Eventually, she managed the get them to come out a day earlier after explaining that if they couldn’t get out to look at it, they would need to put us up in temporary accommodation for the night to keep the family safe before one of us ended up in hospital.


When the engineer then finally came out, he was gobsmacked that they didn't prioritise a house with such young children in, he himself found it unacceptable to have no heating in such low temperatures. He confirmed that it was the same fault as previous, and when he was going to just loosen it off again, my wife explained that is what was done last time and therefore it will be highly likely to happen again. So he did what should have been done in the first place... He replaced the faulty component!


You have to wonder, how many times has this been temporarily fixed in the past? How many times would it have continued to be done again had we not delved into the detail and asked for a permanent fix?


So I’m thinking well if you know it’s a problem and it’s probably going to keep happening, why not replace it? Every time we move into these houses, we are just waiting for things to go wrong. Waiting for these ’sticking plasters’ to fall off.


I wonder if it is about time each house occupant was given a log of the previously recorded faults to be able to hold the contractor to account on whether the repairs have been adequate?! We all move too often for us to know when something breaks if it's the first time it’s happened or a common fault which actually has a wider underlying problem.


For example, two other big issues we’ve had with this house including quite a severe garage leak, resulting in many of our possessions getting water damaged and having to be thrown away. Since there is no other storage in the house we have to use the garage. (You’re not allowed in the loft of military houses.)


There are also numerous switches in our house which trip the electrics every time they’re used.


Now, by coincidence, we know the previous occupant of this house and it turns out he was aware of the garage leak. It would be great to understand whether these faults have been recorded in the past and if they’ve been ‘fixed’ or just covered up to get it handed over to new occupants.


Amongst many others that I'm sure the military community will help me to pull together, I have a couple of recommendations which I think should be considered...


1 - In the winter months (particularly in minus temperatures!) no heating and hot water should be classed as an emergency call out. A 48 hour wait is just not acceptable, especially with young babies or vulnerable people in the house.


2 - Each house should be handed over with a log book of reported faults (timeframe to be determined - 2 years? 5 years??). This will help to ensure when the same fault re-occurs that the occupant can highlight this, in the hope it may be fixed properly. This could help to remove this current sticking plaster scenario so many of us are living in.


The contractor will probably be reluctant to do this, as it will facilitate us holding them to account, but let's be honest, if they're doing their job properly, they won’t have anything to hide, right?!

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It's all fair comment. The house we were forced into - I say forced because I applied for 3 others within the allowed distance and were available on the e1132 but got declined because "if you work in sandhurst you must live in sandhurst". So anyway, we moved into what can only be described as a squat with a lick of paint, we were fortunate that I had spoken with the previous tenant and got all the faults that were listed active when he left (boiler not working, animals in the attic, mould and damp). I questioned this on March in and was told all was sorted and the faults were clear. We marched in during the August heat wave…



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