Do you find yourself envying those houses on your street which are getting a lovely new bathroom or are you cursing the upheaval as you have the work done? Cat Calder, AFF Housing Specialist, offers guidance on how to survive quarter renovations…


REFURBISHMENTS of Service Families Accommodation (SFA) are a vital aspect – or should that be necessary evil – of house maintenance.

Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) has to maintain a minimum standard of condition of quarters, a commitment which includes the lifecycle replacement of, for example, kitchens.

In an ideal world, refurbishment works would only be carried out when properties are empty (void) but due to cost implications, generally whole streets/estates are tackled at once.

The improvement programme is based on the “most in need”, but even if money is assured at the start of the financial year, it can take up to eight months for a project to get off the ground.

This explains the time lag between the initial letter dropping through your door to the actual appearance of workmen!

DIO also often receives extra money towards the end of the financial year meaning projects have to be put in place quickly to ensure that the money is spent – not always an easy task!

The bigger picture

Although we have to live through the disturbance, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. In the long run we will all benefit from upgrade work, making living in SFA a better experience.

Following a campaign from AFF, the implementation of a Mould Action Plan is now identifying quarters which need structural improvements to remove the source of damp and mould – which is great news!

DIO is also finding money to upgrade some of those SFA at the same time, so do let contractors carry out any work and if you have any concerns, email me at

Getting through the upheaval

We all recognise there can be considerable upheaval during refurbishment projects, but the following tips and information tell you what to expect and might help ease any housing headaches:

  • Before the works start, make sure you return the form which asks for relevant information such as: expecting a baby, medical conditions, just about to move out. DIO will do its best to work around these but if it doesn’t know it can’t make plans;
  • Attend any scheduled project meetings as these will provide more detail on what to expect;
  • An On Site Liaison Officer (OSLO) will be responsible for the day-to-day contact and they will be your first port of call;
  • DIO doesn’t set the Grade for Charge, this is managed by the chain of command. It is worth asking your Welfare Office if they can request a temporary downgrade for the duration of the works;
  • DIO doesn’t pay compensation during refurbishments as basic cooking/washing facilities are meant to be made available at the end of each day along with the option of a contact house for families;
  • Request boxes from the contractor to pack up your belongings;
  • A rough outline of order of works/trades is given at the families’ induction;
  • You should be left with a metre of work surface, a working cooker and a sink with running hot and cold water at the end of every day – you will probably have to clean it!;
  • End of day checks are completed by the OSLO or project manager and signed by you;
  • If you aren’t left with a working kitchen, then contact the OSLO, the project manager or call the MHS Helpdesk. If there has been no resolution within an hour, go out for a reasonably-priced meal and claim it back; as a rule MHS pay £10 per adult and £5 per child for food as a result of loss of cooking facilities. You don’t need to provide receipts – a claim form will be sent out;
  • If your soldier is away or has a medical condition you can ask for help moving your white goods;
  • Contractors aren’t supposed to use your electricity unless they are using a bench saw or core drills as these are mains powered only;
  • Contractors should seal up the room they are working in to reduce the amount of dust;
  • Doors and/or windows may need to be left open to help dry out plaster. However, they should not be left open in cold or wet weather unless they need to go in or out;
  • The contractors are meant to make good any damage;
  • Contractors are security cleared, but if you are out of the house it is worth photographing valuables (with a date stamp) to ensure proof of ownership or make arrangements to move them elsewhere for the duration of the works. Check your insurance to make sure you are covered;
  • If you encounter any issues, contact your OSLO.



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