Case Study: East Suffolk Council
East Suffolk Council was officially formed in 2019 as a result of a merger between two local authorities. The council has around 4,500 properties and began using RentSense in February 2019.
Arrears Reduction: £250,000 (Feb 19 – Jan 2021)
Arrears Reduction: 5.14% reduced to 3.35% (Gross)
The income team were working with their HMS and struggling to identify which tenants required contact, they also lacked visibility and insight around their performance as a team and individually.
“Arrears were increasing, and morale was low amongst the team, when I joined in 2017 (at the time the two councils were sharing services). The first question officers asked was ‘when are we getting to get more rent officers?’” explains Samantha Shimmon, Tenant Services Manager at East Suffolk Council.
Samantha shadowed the officers and could sense their frustration with the situation as they felt they could not do their jobs to the best of their ability.
“Investing in more staff was not the solution. We needed to find a more efficient and effective way of working. We spoke to Mobysoft about RentSense. They gave a really clear business case for East Suffolk that provided capacity savings to the team that we really needed. They explained RentSense would only present those cases that needed contact.”
Investing in RentSense
East Suffolk invested in RentSense with clear expectations what the software would deliver in terms of efficiencies and savings, the impact of which was immediate.
“Straight away the team could get through their caseload. In turn that has reduced our arrears and importantly it has improved our team morale. We have the reporting suite as well and we give officers access to that so they can see how they are performing, and we get detailed insight.” Comments Samantha.
Mitigating Universal Credit
East Suffolk (under its previous guise) was one of the first areas in the country to switch to full service Universal Credit (UC) in 2016. This impacted their performance but also at the time increased an already inaccurate caseload. Since investing in RentSense this has helped the council mitigate UC as Samantha explains:
“RentSense has helped us manage Universal Credit. It flags tenants very early in the process, for example when housing benefit is stopped. It also presents where payments failed, so all those that transfer across and pay as normal we don’t need to contact them. As a result, officers get more time to support those vulnerable tenants who need assistance when they transfer across to UC.”
Early Intervention preventing tenants’ debt
The team at East Suffolk have found that RentSense flags cases sooner and helps them intervene at the earliest stages, even before arrears have been accrued, as Samantha highlights:
“The team love the early intervention cases, where accounts are in credit but Housing Benefit has stopped or been reduced, for example. They are able to be proactive and prevent the tenants falling into arrears and get remedies in before it’s too late and the arrears become unmanageable.”
According to Samantha historically the team worked from highest arrears figures down, so the early cases would never be picked up before, until they were a few hundred pounds in arrears. As rental income is the HRA’s only source of revenue the council have spoken at tenant group meetings on how their investment in RentSense has helped the council, as Samantha comments.
“The tenants’ feedback has been really positive. Rent is our only form of income, so the maximisation of our rental collection is in all of our tenants’ interests. It is how we pay for our repairs and replacement programmes. So Rentsense reducing our arrears profile provides additional resources for that and for our new build programme.”
And so, what has the impact of RentSense been over the last two years, especially as the Covid pandemic has impacted many landlords and tenants. Below Samantha discusses the council’s performance.
“RentSense has been instrumental in improving our performance, we have seen a consistent arrears reduction, and they have fallen by £250,000, which is a quarter of our arrears profile is, even when we have experienced a year of a pandemic as well. We have also seen fewer court actions and evictions, as RentSense gives us the ability to contact tenants sooner preventing arrears.”
Finally, Samantha is asked if she would recommend RentSense to other landlords.
“Absolutely, I would. The customer service is second to none, they have also provided best practice webinars which have been really informative and given us new ideas. RentSense more than delivers on the business case in terms of capacity release, but also it has helped reduce arrears and keep more tenants out of debt.”