Newydd Housing Association uses MRI Income Analytics to its fullest potential during the most challenging time
Alan Evans, Senior Housing Officer at Newydd Housing Association, recently spoke at MRI’s Income & Tenancy Sustainability workshop, in collaboration with the NHF. The event discussed the technology solutions that are helping housing providers mitigate the impact of the rising cost of living.
Newydd was already a long-standing client of MRI but increased their reliance on technology during the COVID pandemic, after which they’ve continued to maximise their usage of their solution’s functionality, as well as the value they receive from it.
A catalyst for change
Newydd Housing Association is a charitable housing association with a portfolio of 3,000 affordable homes across mid and South Wales. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the team to work remotely, Newydd had to rapidly adjust their processes to allow for the fact that it was no longer possible to send physical arrears letters from their office. The team also became more sensitive to the fact that sending out formally worded payment demands might not be the most effective way of supporting tenants in arrears and could be adding to their stress without encouraging them to seek support.
The Newydd team worked with MRI to complete a health check and data clean-up exercise for their existing MRI Income Analytics solution, which until the pandemic hit had been used only in a very limited way.
Newydd also reimagined their Rent Team as a Tenancy Management Team, dividing their housing stock into smaller patches of 250 properties each to give team members a more manageable area of focus. They set up a variety of filters within Income Analytics allowing team members to quickly see arrears data for their allocated patch, as well as a suite of custom filters to offer extended information to the team, for example, tenants who have very recently gone into arrears, or those for whom legacy housing benefit payments have not been received.
Identifying and prioritising high-risk tenancies
With MRI Income Analytics, Newydd was able to streamline its arrears management process to focus on the highest-risk tenancies, rather than manually reviewing every rent account. By scoring tenancies on a 1-5 scale based on their payment history over the previous 3-6 months, Income Analytics was able to direct Newydd’s Tenancy Management team to the tenancies where intervention was likely to have the greatest impact.
“Income Analytics does a lot more than tell you what rent is owed. We had a tenant owing £3,000 who wasn’t showing in our filters and thought that maybe the system wasn’t working. When we investigated it, we saw that they’d been religiously paying £20 per week off their arrears, so were at no risk. The system was doing exactly what it was supposed to do.” – Alan Evans – Senior Housing Officer, Newydd Housing Association
As well as identifying the highest-risk tenancies, Newydd also quickly found that Income Analytics helped them to identify tenancies in arrears more quickly, by removing the need to rely on communication from their finance team if direct debit payments were reversed.
“In the past, if a direct debit bounced and the finance team forgot to get in touch, we might not be aware of this for up to 5 weeks. Income Analytics updates overnight and brings reversed direct debits to our attention immediately.” – Alan Evans – Senior Housing Officer, Newydd Housing Association
Shifting to digital tenant communications
Newydd also leveraged Income Analytics’ SMS and email functionality to move away from sending physical arrears letters to tenants. Not only did this enable them to work effectively from home during COVID-19 lockdowns, but it also allowed them to communicate with tenants via channels they preferred, leading to an increase in engagement from tenants in arrears.
“Our team would print off letters with red text saying, “you haven’t paid”, but who’s going to listen to a letter like that? Now, I can send out 40 text messages, adjust the wording to tenants’ situations, and within seconds people are calling in. I can even set up text messages and emails the night before, knowing they’ll hit tenants’ inboxes at 8.30 am the next day.” – Alan Evans – Senior Housing Officer, Newydd Housing Association
Streamlined operations and reduced management time
By shifting to a modernised arrears process powered by MRI Income Analytics, Newydd Housing Association has significantly reduced the resource burden on their Tenancy Management Teams, whilst improving the level of engagement they receive from tenants.
“Every Monday at 1 pm, a team of 4 would spend three and a half days running through the entire rent account, covering arrears from £2,000 down to a penny. Now, some team members only get around 60 rent accounts flagged every week and are channelling their energy into tenants who are at the highest risk.” – Alan Evans – Senior Housing Officer, Newydd Housing Association
Sustaining tenancies with Income Analytics
With more efficient processes and a modernised approach to arrears management, Newydd Housing Association has increased the levels of engagement with their arrears processes whilst significantly reducing the amount of time their team spends reviewing rent accounts, allowing them to prioritise one-to-one interactions with their most vulnerable tenants.
“I’m very passionate about the product – I promise I’m not on commission! I want to tell everybody how much time it saves my staff. It’s reduced the time they spend from three and a half days to a day, leaving them much more time to go out and visit tenants. And as a manager, I can easily use custom filters to keep track of any accounts staff might be missing.” – Alan Evans – Senior Housing Officer, Newydd Housing Association