At the Housing Finance Conference 2021, Tenancy Sustainability Leader at Hafod Housing, Lisa Slade and Rent and Income Team Leader at Dacorum Borough Council, Sandra Mogan joined MRI Software on the virtual podium to share their experiences of using our Income and Tenancy Analytics suite of solutions.
Hafod Housing have been using solutions within MRI’s Income and Tenancy Analytics suite for over four years in order to establish sustainable tenancies that offer appropriate support from before housing allocation through to the end of a tenancy.
Since joining Dacorum Borough Council, Sandra Mogan has been using solutions from the Income and Tenancy Analytics suite to move action from the council around arrears away from enforcement and towards networked support.
The Income and Tenancy Analytics suite has brought together powerful solutions from MRI Software’s heritage brands to assist housing teams in making evidenced decisions to deliver support. The systems span the full lifecycle of a tenancy, from pre-tenancy through to post-tenancy. The past 12 months have been challenging for housing providers and the government white paper has shown that the sector will, going forward be expected to engage with a broader picture of what is going on in their homes. Tools that alert providers to tenancy issues before they escalate can help to maintain positive and support-driven relationships with residents.
The pre-tenancy solution within the Income and Tenancy Analytics suite works to ensure that the right people are in the right properties from the start of a tenancy to mitigate the risks of rent arrears and voids. It offers an invaluable amount of data about applicants so that housing providers can establish sustainable tenancies based on evidence.
Hafod Housing: Supporting those in debt into housing
Working as part of the financial advisory team, Lisa Slade and her colleagues at Hafod Housing use pre-tenancy financial checks before allocating any homes. This is “so that we know the financial situation they are in from the outset. We don’t use the pre-tenancy system to refuse tenancies; that’s the key point that we want to get across. This is purely so that we know the financial background and are able to work with residents in a positive light in order to sustain that tenancy for the long-term.”
In one instance, a young person was declined when the pre-tenancy solution showed that he was in an extraordinary amount of debt. In that rare case, Hafod declined the tenancy but worked with the individual for the following six months to address their issues. After that time, Hafod Housing were then in a position to take on a tenancy and, “thankfully that was with us after all of the hard work we put in! We were really pleased to take them on. It just proved that the pre-tenancy system would work to achieve the best for the residents.”
The in-tenancy solutions offered by MRI assist housing providers to understand and effectively manage the recovery of arrears. They also track changes in financial behaviour that can be used to identify if seemingly financially stable residents may be experiencing hardship and need extra support. The software can also be deployed to establish who is living in a home and identify any potential fraud cases that might be occurring.
Dacorum Borough Council: Dramatic cost-savings with new communication methods
In March 2020, Income Analytics was implemented at Dacorum; two weeks before the first lockdown. With the impact of lockdown, they immediately had very limited ability to see tenants, especially their higher risk tenants. For Sandra Mogan, using “the email and text functions on Income Analytics was really beneficial to contact those hard-to-reach tenants.
“In terms of communication with tenants I wanted our team to move from enforcement to support and the impact of COVID-19 has helped us move that forward. More touchpoints with tenants have meant we have been able to reduce the amount of enforcement letters.” The impact of doing this was huge; Sandra established that the estimated costs of paper letters were £20 each. Reducing this number drastically using Income Analytics led to a £29,000 saving in Q1 and Q2 2020.
When people are in financial crisis and burying their heads in the sand, they are not going to open a letter from Dacorum Borough Council, because they know what they contain. But pretty much everybody has a mobile phone; if you get a text, somebody is going to read it. With Income Analytics we can have a template text and we can change it to make it more supportive and personalised, or we can send a bulk text out to a whole group of tenants.
Sandra Mogan, Rent and Income Team Leader, Dacorum Borough Council
Hafod Housing: Identifying vulnerabilities
One highlight for Hafod Housing of using Tenancy Analytics was becoming aware of a resident that had dementia and needed support. They identified that there was a problem, “purely through the financial behaviour we found through Tenancy Analytics; it was showing up that there were numerous applications for credit being made. Awareness of vulnerabilities may not present on a rent account, i.e compulsive spending due to dementia.” With the data available in the Tenancy Analytics solution, Hafod Housing were able to clearly see this concerning pattern of behaviour and implement the necessary support.
Dacorum Borough Council: Reducing arrears
Due to COVID-19, at Dacorum Borough Council arrears were forecast to increase by 20%. Using Income Analytics positively contributed to the much-reduced actual increase in arrears of only 5%. “We couldn’t be happier that the income hasn’t been as bad as we thought it was going to be. Income Analytics has really helped us because we’ve been able to focus on those accounts that have been getting into trouble quickly.”
Hafod Housing: Tackling fraud
Using Tenancy Analytics, Hafod Housing recovered a 3-bedroom home that was being sublet, ensuring that the home could go to someone who needed it. The solution indicated that a mortgage application had been granted and that the current residents had in fact been subletting Dacorum’s property. “We were able to successfully get that property back into our stock and allocated to an individual on the housing list.”
Hafod Housing: Succession rights
Succession cases can be difficult to evidence and loved ones of a deceased resident may not be financially able to continue living in a home. In one serious case, Lisa found that the costs of “one legal dispute with a succession case came to £28,000. Depending on the level of stock you hold, it will probably mean that Tenancy Analytics will cost you less, as opposed to you spending £28,000 on a legal bill. Tenancy Analytics will give you the evidence you need.”
The post-tenancy solution within the Income and Tenancy Analytics suite identifies and traces individuals that have moved on and still owe money to the housing provider. Using income analytics, individuals are given a ‘propensity to pay’ score, from which housing providers can establish affordable plans to re-coup ex-resident arrears.
Hafod Housing: Guiding processes
Lisa explains, “We have one Former Tenant Arrears Officer at Hafod Housing on a part-time basis. As such, the post-tenancy solution does a hell of a lot, where otherwise I don’t think we’d have the capacity and we certainly wouldn’t have the know-how about how to chase these cases, get the evidence to re-coup that debt and establish affordable re-payments.”
There were a lot of things that we wanted to get out of Income and Tenancy Analytics, and we felt it was ideal for us. A lot of the factors from the solutions have now been built into our procedures at Hafod Housing and have become part of our day-to-day working.
Lisa Slade, Tenancy Sustainability Leader, Hafod Housing
About Hafod Housing
Hafod Housing is a not-for-profit housing provider operating in South Wales, committed to improving the lives of their customers and communities. Founded just over 50 years ago, they have grown from a small housing association to working with 16,000 people each year, cooperating with 9 local authorities and employing 1,400 people.
About Dacorum Borough Council
Local authority, Dacorum Borough Council serves people living in the north-west of Hertfordshire. The council manages and provides support for 10,500 homes with a strong track record for building social homes as well as for striving to contribute to successful communities and economic growth in the area.