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4 Federation of Private Residents’ Associations Newsletter

DON’T SWITCH OFF! Digital for Flat-Dwellers

Flat-dwellers face greater problems in the switchover to Digital TV, and research shows that many are “switched off” by the issue. to upgrade communal TV systems.

The FPRA is strongly recommending that leaseholders and all those living in flats check with their landlord or managing agents NOW to find out whether the building in which they live is ready to receive digital TV.

“Waiting until your own area switches over could result in higher prices for aerial upgrades or new installations,” warns FPRA Chairman Bob Smytherman. “Contractors will have inevitable capacity problems. Also, many landlords will delay the improvements needed due to the financial crisis, or to the bureaucracy of the Section 20 procedures of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, which can take in excess of three months to get any expenditure approved, or simply to save money.

“With the Border region switching to ONLY digital at the end of this year, the potential for “switch off” is facing thousands of flat-dwellers and is a real cause for concern,” he said.

“Awareness among those living in flats has been steadily increasing, but there is a real concern that flat-dwellers – who generally face more barriers to consider when going digital – are lagging behind those in houses.

“We are concerned for those blocks of flats where limited resources available for the upgrading of TV equipment will force vulnerable residents – many of whom rely on the TV as their only connection with the world outside – to either pay inflated increases in service charges or, worse still, be left without any TV when the analog signals are turned off.

“Digital UK are to commission pilot research to evaluate and monitor progress and attitudes among the private rented and long leasehold residential housing sector in the Manchester area, with the aim of the project to measure the level of progress made by private sector landlords

Bob represents the FPRA on the Housing Expert Group to inform Digital UK of the issues faced by flat-dwellers and will be keeping member associations in touch with the necessary advice to avoid residents facing a blank screen when their area switches off the current analog signals.

“We would like to hear from any leaseholders about their experiences of switching to Digital and whether there are any specific difficulties with upgrading communal TV equipment,” he said.

The first large-scale switchover has already started (November 2008) and will

“With the conversion of communal aerial systems and issues of responsibility being the main causes of a slower conversion rate than in houses, we are disappointed that the Government’s Help Scheme is just for individuals, and NOT for landlords or managing agents. This potentially leaves many vulnerable flat-dwellers – who otherwise would qualify for the scheme – with an inflated cost to receive the new technology that others have come to take for granted.”

Vulnerable residents of flats with a communal TV aerial could be left reliant totally on the goodwill of their landlord for aerial upgrade or new installations.

involve 52,000 homes in the Scottish Borders. During 2009, a further five million UK households across the Border, West Country, Wales and Granada TV regions will have analogue services replaced with digital terrestrial TV (Freeview).

Urgent Action Needed for Flat Dwellers

Concerns about the digital switchover as it affects flat dwellers have been voiced in a Parliamentary debate.

Mr Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, said that he would like to see much more urgent work being done about the issue of switchover in rented accommodation with communal areas, in other words in all forms of houses of multiple occupation. “I believe that private and social landlords need to do very much more, and they need to be encouraged to do very much more, to take action to ensure that their tenants are ready for switchover,” he said.

“I am well aware that Digital UK is about to commission pilot research to evaluate and monitor the progress and attitudes among people in the privately rented and leasehold residential housing sector in Manchester. However, the results of that research will come far too late to inform what happens… in the wider borders area, where, as we have heard, switchover is about to begin.”

Barbara Follett, Parliamentary Under- Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, said the Government had picked up on the issue of social housing providers and people in buildings of multiple occupation in Copeland, and as a result had done a great deal of extra work to engage landlords in Selkirk. Private landlords had been contacted via letting agents, managing agents, the Scottish Borders council private landlords’ forum and, more recently, through the tenancy deposit scheme.

Issue No. 87 Winter 2008

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