Case Study: South Lakes Housing

South Lakes Housing was a stock transfer from the South Lakeland council in 2012, prior to which it as being run as an ALMO. It has around 3,000 properties spread across the Lake District, in Southern Cumbria.

Key Stats

Properties: 3,000
Efficiency Saving: 2-3 FTE
Arrears Reduction: 24% (2017 – 2018)

South Lakes Housing was a stock transfer from the South Lakeland council in 2012, prior to which it as being run as an ALMO. It has around 3,000 properties spread across the Lake District, in Southern Cumbria.

South Lakes Housing have been using RentSense since 2012. The transition from an ALMO to a LSVT Housing Association meant that instead of getting weekly Housing Benefit (HB) payments, from the council, they would be paid every four weeks. These changing HB payment patterns prompted South Lakes to start investigating RentSense.

“At that time South Lakes had generic housing officers and the prospect of having to check all 3,000 accounts, would have wasted a considerable amount of time. With the transition to four weekly HB we just wanted to see and action cases that needed our attention.” Commented Simon Hughes, Income Manager at South Lakes Housing

Before selecting RentSense South Lakes met with another user, Trafford Housing Trust, to see how they the system worked for them and what benefits it was delivering.

“Back then, before RentSense, officers were looking at all their accounts in the HMS, checking for arrears, but after deployment of RentSense they were looking at just 25% of their patch. So straight away we could see the benefits.”

As part of the training and deployment process South Lakes housing officers had RentSense, its rules and how it operated, clearly explained to them by Mobysoft staff. This helped give them confidence in the system in that they were seeing just the cases they needed to.

From the outset RentSense delivered tangible efficiencies to South Lakes helping reduce arrears and deliver FTE, but throughout their time using RentSense there has been lots of changes, both internally and externally. Arguably the biggest of which has been on-going welfare reform, and specifically Universal Credit.

In spite of the onset of Universal Credit, South Lakes Housing wanted to maintain their performance whilst acknowledging the workload would increase with more rent to collect direct from tenants. So, in 2017, the decision was made to move the housing officers from a generic role to a specialist one. Subsequently an Income Management team was created.  The organisation felt it needed a focused approach to rent collection that would help maintain performance and protect revenues.

“We moved to three income officers who looked after 3,000 rent accounts. At that time RentSense was recommending about 500 cases a week across the team,” comments Simon.

“This meant the officers were focused on their cases, which they got through by mid-week, in turn this freed up time for visits and so forth later in the week. Both then and now I believe without RentSense we would need another 2-3 FTE to simply cope and manage with income collection, it is that important.”

Recently, South Lakes Housing transitioned to a new Housing Management System (HMS). The supplier told South Lakes the new housing system would replicate RentSense.

“In the last year we have tried to create something like RentSense in our new HMS but this has proved quite challenging. However, a decision has been made to continue using RentSense.” Commented Simon

“Since making the move to the new HMS RentSense has really bridged the gap for us, indeed it (RentSense) was one of the smoothest parts of making the transition (to a new HMS). For us this was really important and Mobysoft coped really well with the whole process.”

“I would say that in the future if we were looking to change our HMS again I would want demonstrable evidence that the system could deliver similar results to RentSense before committing to it.”

In what has been a tumultuous time for South Lakes with welfare reform, transitioning from a generic to a specialist income collection team as well as deploying a new HMS, RentSense has been a constant that has helped deliver efficiencies and savings.

“Since 2016 our arrears have fallen from 2.08%, to 1.76% in 2017 to 1.33% in 2018 and RentSense has certainly helped with that,” comments Simon.

“We have maintained upper quartile performance throughout using RentSense. Of our 3,000 tenancies over the last nine to ten months the officers have only had around 120 cases a week to look at, which really plays a part.”

Over time it is also possible to illustrate how RentSense has refined its performance by presenting fewer and fewer cases. As South Lakes officers have focused on just the cases presented they have helped improve performance, lower arrears and reduce the number of arrears cases they need to manage. All of which means over time caseload has fallen, in spite of the more challenging environment.

“RentSense has really helped, without it I am convinced our arrears would be in a much worse state, and it is consistently saving us 2-3 FTE.” comments Simon.

Asked whether he would recommend RentSense to other social landlords, Simon replies.

“Yes, I have and I do. I have lost count the number of organisations I have spoken to. We are happy and it works well for us.”