Case Study: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council is one of four metropolitan districts which make up South Yorkshire. It has around 20,000 properties spread across that area.
Arrears Reduction: £1.1m
Reduction in bad debt provision: £0.5m
Collection Rate: 99.67%
In 2015 Rotherham Council wanted to completely revamp its housing income collection – its collection rate was just over 96% and staff needed the confidence to be able to have challenging conversations with tenants about rent arrears.
“We completed a root and branch review of income collection – we benchmarked our performance against 72 other organisations and we were in the lower quartile. With Universal Credit on the horizon we wanted to make changes. This, coupled with the Council’s ambitious development plans, we wanted to ensure the Housing Revenue Account (HRA) was robust and could support this with excellent income collection rates,” said Paul Elliot, Business and Commercial Manager at Rotherham Council..
Nicholas Beasley, Income Recovery Team Leader at Rotherham Council added: “The team brings a proactive approach to rent collection, bringing experience from a variety of backgrounds, not just housing revenue experience, so we wanted a tool that would support them in delivering the required results.”
The decision was made to invest in RentSense to support a refresh of the department’s processes.
“When RentSense was deployed to staff, they trusted the recommendations it offered, as they saw cases missed by the previous system – this gave confidence in the new system and helped bed it in.” highlights Mark Edmondson, Income Recovery Manager at Rotherham Council.
“I had not used RentSense before, but straight away I could see the value – the other arrears systems I had used looked simple in comparison,” added Nicholas.
“When you start to use it, the information and detail it gives you is invaluable, and the reporting identifies where to allocate your time and resources. Before there was a lack of prioritisation and now we are able to focus on P1s, then P2s and so on.”
The Council is also working towards switching tenants away from direct debits to recurring card payments for the benefit of residents, and the process is supported by RentSense.
Nicholas explains: “When a direct debit bounces it can cost the resident around a week’s rent in additional charges. If a card payment is declined there is no charge. RentSense can flag a declined payment straight away so we can speak to the tenant to help them avoid any potential budget issues, and minimise any disruption to their tenancy.”
When asked about their thoughts about the transition to RentSense, all three of the team are enthusiastic in their responses:
“RentSense simply helps us to collect more of the rent that is due to us while helping tenants to manage debt at the earliest opportunity.. We are now out-performing many of our peers,” explains Nicholas.
Paul adds: “We expected the investment on implementing RentSense to return in three years. However, the investment was paid back twice over in the first twelve months, and we are now upper quartile performers when compared to peers.
“In 2018/19 the target set was to achieve a collection rate of 98.25%. At the year-end we achieved 99.67%, which meant we collected over £1.1m more in rent than budgeted. We also reduced our bad debt provision by around £500,000. In terms of corporate objectives, we are a development-oriented council, so, the savings we have delivered can be used to feed into future projects.”
“RentSense has played an important part in helping our service to improve, and that’s why we have recently invested in a multi-year contract with Mobysoft,” concludes Mark.