Case Study: Octavia
Octavia has a special place in social housing as it was founded by the sector’s pioneer Octavia Hill and it can trace its routes back to 1865. Today, Octavia Housing has around 5,000 properties across central and west London, and like many landlords they use RentSense to help them mitigate the effects of welfare reform and specifically Universal Credit. With 10% of their tenancies claiming Universal Credit, their approach is paying dividends as their proportion of arrears made up by these tenancies are very low.
Arrears Reduction: £220,000
Arrears: from 4.7% to 3.6%
“A couple of years ago we changed our processes and procedures in recognition of the impact of welfare reform. We wanted to create efficiencies and give officers more time,” explains Dan Thwaites, Income Manager at Octavia Housing.
As an organisation Octavia also invested in a further financial inclusion officer to help support tenants making that transition. This investment has been critical in ensuring tenants are claiming what they are entitled to. In the last twelve months this service has proven to be an invaluable service for their tenants, and in one instance they helped a resident obtain an outcome in back dated pay of around £38,000.
Octavia has used technology to embed efficiencies in their processes and ensure staff allocate the required resource to each resident whilst also identifying which tenants may need additional support.
“We use Mobysoft’s text solution (RentText) to automate texts at different times to UC claimants. People get messages about their claim and verification, their first payment and a reminder to pay their rent. These work really well, and leave officers with more time to get on with other pressing tasks.” Highlights Dan
Octavia also use RentText to send automated reminder messages to their priority 3 arrears cases prompting them to contact the income team.
“This approach gives the team more time on higher priority cases and the approach is working for us.” Explains Dan.
What’s more Steve Burgess, Income Officer, at Octavia explains, how RentSense and texting help him in his role.
“With RentSense each week you can see your workload reduce, this really helps, but it also gives you the time to get on with other tasks. The automated texts also alleviate the workload and they are effective as well, as you get tenants calling in. I have also had people clear their accounts because of them, all without me getting involved.”
One of the additional benefits that Octavia has noticed is that the number of Notices of Seeking Possession (NOSPs) has reduced dramatically, and as a result the number of court appearances is falling, which is helping them lower their costs, give more time back to officers and of course the ultimate aim, sustain the residents tenancy.
“I could use up half a day by attending a 10-minute court case,” explains Steve. “Again because of this I get more time for other tasks.”
There are many ways in which Octavia are experiencing benefits from deploying RentSense by giving the income team an accurate caseload. And all of this has helped Octavia deliver their best performance in two decades, as Dan explains.
“RentSense enables us to better manage and keep on top of our rent payments status, which has helped the team. Alongside this we have improved our procedures and processes to prioritise rent payments and the team work hard to keep in communication with, and support, people living in our homes. This has not negatively impacted evictions. Our first priority is always to do what we can to support people to sustain their tenancy but we also encourage them to understand that meeting their rent payment is a priority. And, of course, through the officer’s hard work, they have helped Octavia achieve its best performance in the last 20 years.” Highlights Income manager at Octavia, Dan Thwaites.”
In the last two years arrears have fallen from 4.7% down to 3.93% in March 2019 and then by December 2019 they were 3.6%.
“The performance each year has improved and in the last twenty-four months we have been able to reduce arrears by over £220,000 despite welfare reform,” comments Dan.
RentSense is not just a tool helping the officers with their caseload, it also offers management insightful reporting that help monitor workload and also patch distribution.
“The reporting enables me to oversee performance and workload, I can see how many cases each officer has and how quickly they are progressing through their caseload, so we can re-allocate resource if and when required,” states Dan.
“RentSense has helped us reduce arrears over the last two years and it gives the officers the right cases in the right priority Concludes Dan.