5. Handover to residents
When your retrofit project is complete, it is essential that your residents understand how to use any new equipment and what it means for the way in which they live in their home. Without an effective handover, residents will not gain the full benefit of living in a warmer, healthier home with reduced energy bills and your organisation may not see the cost and carbon savings that you expect from your project.
Why it matters
A well-thought-out handover to residents is a critical part of a successful retrofit project.
If residents are not provided with clear guidance on how to use their new energy systems, there are a number of potential consequences:
Residents use more energy than they need to, which could increase their energy bills and lead to higher than expected carbon emissions.
Residents struggle to use new heating and ventilation systems, meaning the property could be cold and damp (which in turn can cause health issues).
Residents won’t get the comfort, cost or health benefits that they have been promised and may complain, either directly to you or amongst their friends and neighbours. This could make it more difficult to build support for future retrofit projects.
It is important to remember that you have changed someone’s home and that this will have an impact on their everyday lives. They need to understand and be happy with the changes.
Good resident engagement is obligatory. Retrofit projects that receive government funding (including SHDF) or Energy Company Obligation (ECO) subsidies must comply with PAS 2035. This standard has specific requirements for installers during handover, including ensuring the occupants can safely and effectively use all new equipment. In addition, Section 20 legislation requires social landlords to consult with leaseholders who may be affected by retrofit activity.
Key steps to take
Build on the relationships you have made in your resident engagement work
Make a plan for the handover so that it’s not forgotten at the end of the project
Ensure that the installer hands over to both the occupant and the owner of the building
Ensure information and instructions are easy to understand
Provide the information in different ways and using different methods to meet the needs of your residents
Engage internal colleagues who work with and understand your residents and who can support the handover, for example, resident liaison or customer service
Make sure the handover and resident training are PAS 2035 compliant and that the correct documentation has been issued. The retrofit coordinator will check that the correct procedure has been followed to ensure compliance.
Plan in advance to make sure there is enough time and resources for the handovers at the end of the project. Have the handover in mind when you start the project. Avoid complicated processes and systems by specifying technology that is going to be easy for residents to use.
Hand over systems during the heating season, if possible. This will ensure that information about how to control heating systems is put into use quickly and that behaviors are established early. If the retrofit was carried out in the summer, visit again before the heating season begins to help residents with their heating controls.
Visit residents in their home. The best way for people to understand how to use their new technologies is for you to show them in their home. They can also practice what you show them and ask questions in their own environment.
Take your time. Rushed handovers will mean that residents won’t properly understand what you have told them.
Provide written information as follow up. This will mean the residents have something to refer to after the home visit. Make sure it’s clearly written and laid out, and available in their preferred language. Use pictures and graphics to help you to avoid technical jargon and get your message across more clearly, particularly for those with additional language or literacy requirements.
Tailor the communication to your individual residents, particularly those with additional needs. Not everyone can access information online, so you will need to make information available in hard copy as well as digitally. You will also need to provide on- or offline formats for those with hearing or visual impairments.
Work with trusted intermediaries. Local champions among residents can help support your handover work, and be available locally to residents if they have questions. This can be especially helpful with groups that are harder to reach.
Follow up with the resident three months later to find out how they’re doing and if they need any further support. This could be by email or telephone, or you could offer a home visit.
Remember future residents too. When new residents move in, they’ll also need to be shown how to use the technologies in their home.
Best practice for retrofit handovers is to carry out a home visit with the resident, so you can talk about their new energy technologies and demonstrate them in situ.
Put yourself in the resident’s shoes and fit around their needs. What time of day suits them best for a visit? Would they like someone else to be there at the same time?
Explain in advance what you’ll be doing and how long it will take.
Always carry a photo ID and introduce yourself politely.
Listen to the resident about how they use their home. When do they need the heating on or off? What days or times are they likely to be at home? Do they prefer some rooms to be cooler than others?
Walk around the home with the resident and explain what measures have been installed and why.
Show the resident how to set any controls to the patterns that they would like to use. Talk them through any instruction leaflets at the same time so they can match what you’re saying with the written information. If you have changed the heating system, make sure the resident knows what temperatures or settings will give them the level of comfort that they need.
Provide a clear point of contact including a telephone number if people need more information or advice.
Check the resident’s understanding by asking them how they would change the controls and by making sure they know who to contact if they are having any difficulties with their systems.
You can also use this as an opportunity to share low and no cost energy saving advice. This might include switching energy providers, having a smart meter installed or making sure the resident is claiming available subsidies such as the Warm Homes Discount Scheme.
Follow up information is important for residents to refer back to. You will need to think about the format in which this will be shared with residents (eg, leaflets, websites) and where information will be kept for later reference.
For written information, you should make sure:
The most important messages are simply stated and clearly visible.
Information is clearly written and laid out, and available in the main languages of your residents.
It’s not too long. Keep any written information to one or two pages: it’s better to have a series of short instructions than one long one.
Technical details are simplified to help people understand the changes that have been made to their homes. Pictures and images are great for communicating technical information.
Contact details are included so residents know who to contact if they have questions later on. Work with your customer service team to make sure they have the right information to help any residents that call with queries.
Information is kept up to date and new versions are distributed whenever something changes, for example, website addresses or phone numbers.
Creating handover videos
Videos are an engaging and informative way of sharing information with people.
Much of the advice above is also applicable to video content. However, you should also make sure:
The video is kept short and focused. It’s better to have a few short videos than one long one
The lighting and sound are of high quality to make sure residents can see and hear what’s going on. Subtitles should also be used.
The videos are stored somewhere accessible and are easy for residents to find.
Remember: not all residents will have access to the internet or to smartphones, so you should always have an offline alternative for all information that residents will need.
Explaining retrofit technologies
Some retrofit measures need little or no interaction from the resident. However, others need more resident involvement and so will need more detailed explanations at handover. Here are some of the things that residents will need to understand about the new systems in their home:
Don’t store things on top of the insulation as it can squash the insulation down and make it less effective.
Don’t walk on the insulation as you may put your foot through the ceiling.
External and internal wall insulation
Don’t make holes in the insulation, for example by drilling or hammering nails into the wall. The holes will damage the insulation and can cause cold spots where mould can grow.
Ventilation will be more important now the home has more insulation.
If mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) has been installed, this will need its own handover, covering why it’s important to leave the system switched on, why windows should be closed and how often to change the filters.
If you have not installed an MVHR system, then the handover should cover how to use windows, vents and fans for ventilation, with a focus on removing moisture from the air.
Heat pumps provide heat in a different way to conventional central heating systems, with a lower but more constant temperature. The key issues here are:
Understand when the best time is to use different appliances to take advantage of the electricity or hot water being generated “for free” by their systems.
You should also talk to them about switching to a dynamic tariff designed especially for homes with renewables.
It can be hard to understand an individual technology, let alone multiple systems that all work together. Make sure that you take time with residents, provide information through multiple means and keep checking back with people. Another useful approach is to offer roadshows or show homes which demonstrate how to use retrofit systems – these give people a chance to ask questions and to “practice” new behaviours in a supportive environment. Product suppliers and installers may be able to help you with this type of activity.
PAS 2035 requirements for handover
The handover requirements for PAS 2035 are listed in brief below. Your retrofit coordinator will be able to explain further and will ensure all the steps have been taken for compliance.
Handover must be to both the occupant and the owner of the building.
The retrofit coordinator will:
Make a visual inspection of all installed measures
Have a demonstration of how measures should be operated
Make a visual check that the occupant can use equipment effectively
Recommend that a new Energy Performance Certificate is prepared for the property after completion
The installer must:
Provide information on care, maintenance and safe operation of all measures
Provide information on the ventilation strategy and the importance of ventilation
Provide documentation including test and commissioning certificates, warranties and statutory approvals
What frameworks are there for effective handover?
Soft Landings, BSRIA - The Soft Landings Framework was developed by BSRIA to help address the performance gap, that is, the very common gap in performance between what is designed and what is achieved in construction and retrofit projects. Sometimes the gap is about installation or product quality, and sometimes it is about whether residents have the information that they need to use their new systems to full effect. The BSRIA website contains a great deal of guidance (paid) and links to events:
RIBA Plan For Use Guide, RIBA - Soft Landings has been incorporated into the standard RIBA Plan of Work. Their Plan for Use guide has some great advice about how to think about outcomes for your residents at all stages of your retrofit project (note that the guide covers all types of buildings, but the thinking within it is adaptable to housing retrofit):
Are there any standards for resident engagement?
National Tenant Engagement Standards (England), TPAS – TPAS produces voluntary engagement standards to support housing providers in conversations with residents across all aspects of their work. The latest standards can be downloaded from the following link (registration required):
The TPAS Cymru website sets out resident engagement standards for Wales. These are available at:
How can I think about the whole resident engagement journey?
Managing human factors in retrofit projects, University of Salford – this research paper looks at resident engagement through and after a retrofit project, identifying why it matters and key considerations at each stage. It is a useful and accessible summary of other research in this topic:
How can I help residents to access energy advice?
Residents can get simple, impartial information about different technologies that can be retrofitted as well as general energy saving tips and advice from:
Get in touch
If you would like to discuss planning issues on your retrofit project, please contact the SHRA Support team.
We would love to hear about your experiences. What has worked for your organisation? What lessons have you learned? What documents, reports or tools have you found most helpful? Please contact if you would like to share your experiences.