Case Study: bpha
bpha has over 19,000 properties situated between the Oxford to Cambridge Arc, and they invested in RentSense in 2018, and at the same time becoming Mobysoft’s 100th customer.
Arrears Reduction: 12% (Jun 18 2.9% – Nov 20 2.55%)
Eviction Reduction: 17 Evictions (56 in 18/19 – 39 in 19/20)
Capacity Created: 2.4 FTE
Investing to create capacity
The initial investment was based on efficiencies within their housing team, as they wanted their staff to focus on the highest priority cases as Helena Pountney, Regional Housing Manager at bpha explains:
“The main driver for investing in RentSense was not about reducing arrears but about creating capacity within our housing team. Our officers are generic and before RentSense they were reviewing their caseload in our HMS, the issue was the caseload was not accurate.”
There were also some surprises with their caseload in that RentSense also found arrears cases that the previous system had not flagged for action.
“RentSense is far more intelligent and highlights just the cases we need to action, so officers spend time addressing the right cases. The one big surprise initially was the number of missed cases that RentSense found. This really helped to focus the housing team. The investment for us was about additional resource or RentSense. But it is far more efficient to focus on the right cases and give officers more time, and that’s what RentSense enables us to do.”
bpha is a development oriented social landlord, in two years they have grown the number of general needs properties by over 7% taking them from 13,000 to 14,000 homes.
“As an organisation we do focus on development. Since having RentSense the number of properties we manage has gone up by 1,000 and we have only recruited one additional housing officer to manage this capacity,” explains Helena.
Despite their expansion in homes the bpha team has delivered an incredible performance with rent arrears, as they have fallen by over 12% in that period, as Helena explains.
“With the right cases the housing officers have been able to focus on the right tenants and offer the right support. As a result, arrears have fallen from 2.9% to 2.55% in the two years we have had RentSense.”
In that time Universal Credit has been rolled out and currently bpha has around 4,000 tenants claiming the benefit.
“We were impacted by the roll out of Universal Credit in the earlier stages. And over time our approach has changed. Initially we used RentSense to create separate UC patches for officers, but now we see UC as business as usual and our officers have their UC and non-UC cases amalgamated. The team are supported in their approach by the Money Advice Team, they help signpost and support tenants when they make their initial transition,” comments Helena.
The bpha housing team are very much focused on customer service and the organisation believes they can deliver on this more effectively with a generic housing team.
“RentSense really helps by providing an accurate workload that is prioritised. This really helps free up time for the officers so they can focus on other aspects of their role. The intelligence of the system also means when they have their arrears action days they can highlight specific types of cases to work through. Even the lower priority cases, such as cases in credit, it helps them prevent tenants from falling into arrears.”
The customer-centric approach that bpha are taking where they offer a consistent approach and have staff that know and understand their customers, supported by using RentSense, is paying dividends as arrears have fallen, but so to have evictions prior to lockdown.
“We have been able to sustain more tenancies and RentSense has helped the officers with this. By March 2020 we had reduced evictions by 17 compared to the same time in March 2019,” comments Helena.
Covid has had a big impact on bpha and the housing team as visits have been scaled back, and they have adapted the process, as Helena highlights.
“We prefer to have a conversation face to face however we are limited in how we do this at the moment so communication is predominately by phone, and the focus has been on making agreements and not about enforcement.”
The management team have also involved the money advice team in helping manage arrears and collections, looking at low level priority rules such as where Housing Benefit has reduced, or tenants are in credit but it is reducing. And the reporting within RentSense has really helped throughout the pandemic.
“The management reporting enables me to see where the highest levels of risk are so that we can address them. The technology that sits behind RentSense is really sophisticated, as that delivers the accurate caseload, but the simplicity of ease of use really help the team and management get the most from it.”
The reporting also helps Helena save time when reporting to management on arrears and collections, whilst the dashboard also helps monitor progress throughout the week and offers comparisons to previous weeks. When asked if bpha would recommend RentSense to others, Helena replies:
“RentSense has played its part in creating around 2.4 FTE of capacity within the team, which is why we invested in the first place. But the accurate caseload has enabled the team to lower our arrears, even when we have added an additional 1,000 homes in that time. It has also helped the team have the right conversations with customers that has helped sustain more tenancies. I would recommend RentSense to other landlords, but it is more than the just the product, it is the service as well. The support and assistance we get from our account management team, where they help ensure we get the most from RentSense.”