TMO Case Study: Clarence Way
Peter Morgan is a softly spoken man with a gentle Irish lilt and an easy laugh. It’s easy to see why the residents at the Clarence Way Estate in Camden find him so approachable.
“If the residents feel they can phone me up and ask for a caretaker to fill up the kids’ paddling pool, it’s an easy win,” he says, immediately emphasising the importance of building relationships with the local community.
In fact, his dedication to the welfare of Clarence Way’s residents becomes a common theme that weaves its way through the entire conversation.
He joined the team at Clarence Way Tenants and Residents Organisation in 2018, two years after it was founded. Within 9 months, he had been promoted to estate manager, supported by the committee chair.
“I’ve got 20 years’ experience in housing, but I’ve always tried to shy away from management roles. I couldn’t get out of this one – and I’m glad I didn’t,” he laughs. “It’s an opportunity to help people. The residents are able to come to us and tell us what they want.
“In the past, we’ve done things like Easter egg hunts, carol services and even held a summer fete with an outdoor cinema.”
While it sounds idyllic, running a TMO has its challenges, from anti-social behaviour to stakeholder management, which can involve managing the expectations of Camden Council, Clarence Way’s governing body.
“We’re supposed to provide a minimum standard of service,” Peter explains. “However, we always go over and above, which can cause some friction with the local authority. For example, we provide a weekend cleaning service, which you don’t get anywhere else in Camden. It can be a balancing act between helping tenants and working with the council.”
With a mix of 319 leasehold, freehold and social housing properties under management, Clarence Way accommodates several thousand people. Many of the blocks of flats were built in the 1950s and 60s, which Peter says bring their own problems, but “the benefits outweigh the challenges”.
The Impact of Covid-19
Like every organisation, Clarence Way TMO has also been affected by the events of 2020.
“We’re very fortunate,” Peter points out. “We’ve provided a full service throughout the lockdown. I’ve got a good friend in Italy who told me what happened there. Because of that, we managed to get PPE in advance. We started looking at who could work at home and who could come in very early in the process. We then got letters out to residents to say what we were going to do. They were very responsive to that.
“In fact, we’ve used the opportunity to get some projects done while it’s been quiet, like external painting and cleaning doorways. We’ve also made sure all the grass was cut regularly so children could play outside while the playgrounds were shut.”
Of course, many administrative responsibilities also fall within Peter’s remit – and things haven’t always been easy.
“Two years ago we had some challenges with our previous insurer, so I started looking for insurance providers that have experience in dealing with insurance for TMOs and came across Phil Smith from One Broker.
“I sent an email, not expecting to hear anything but he responded the same day. He asked a few questions and was on the phone first thing in the morning to confirm a few little things about staffing, revenue and turnover.
“He then came back really quickly with insurance recommendations and that was great. Once I had paid the premium, I thought that would be that, but Phil phones every once in a while to make sure everything’s okay. It’s nice because it’s a person you’re speaking with, rather than a large corporation.
“When we were coming up for our first renewal, he got in touch and had a good chat about additional cover, including cyber liability, which we had never really thought about. It was quite a reasonable price for peace of mind; it’s too easy to let the wrong email go to the wrong person.”
The real benefits came when Clarence Way ran into some employment issues.
“When Phil heard about the issue, he phoned me to say that we had free legal advice with our TMO insurance. He provided me with all the information I needed to contact the company and they were fantastic. Phil even called back to make sure I was able to get through. Our issue with our staffing could have worked out very differently – I can’t praise him enough.
“I always get the feeling I can call him about anything; nothing is too much trouble. He asks the right questions and guides me through the p rocess. I have no hesitation in recommending him because I feel confident that he’s going to do for any organisation what he’s done for us.”
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