MyHomePassport’s CEO and founder, Dr Christopher Ford, considers the ‘missing piece of the jigsaw’ that incentivises tenant compliance to promote better outcomes for both tenants and housing providers.
These days, thankfully, there is much greater emphasis on creating better living environments, offering improved customer services, digitising interactions and creating housing provider performance indicators.
It is so important that the social housing sector improves performance and service delivery. It is making great strides to do so, either as a reactionary measure to recent tragic events or by organic evolution. However, it takes two to tango, and housing providers must rely on a partnership between them and their tenants. One relies on the other to behave and perform at levels that allow the symbiosis to survive without either side suffering.
Our marketing uses the analogy of the clownfish and the sea anemone; one provides the safety of a home while the other protects and looks after it, and both prosper when efforts are balanced.
A standard housing management system has many pieces and must include CRM to provide overall control, monitoring, management and communications. There must be a rent accounting system for rent setting, payments, contact management, arrears collections and processing. A repairs and maintenance area is needed for inspections, compliance, repairs, requests, evaluations and supplier invoicing. Then there will be the asset management database with its plans, surveys, certificates and other data. The financials and HR should be covered and you may have a reporting system to allow better communication and data analysis, customer apps and contact management. The list goes on…
Yet, is there one piece missing?
One major strain on any budget is dealing with tenants who, for various reasons, fall into rent arrears or perhaps don’t look after the property as well as they should. They may also cause some nuisance with their behaviour, which are the pain points for all housing providers. Huge resources are focused on dealing with the consequences of these issues, and millions of pounds are spent each year due to non-compliance. One way to look at it is this minority group of tenants gets all the attention!
In some ways, these tenants have little control over the hardships they face, such as loss of income, or an illness or changes in benefits income. There may be behavioural issues within the family or mental health issues. These require careful management (and associated high costs) by the housing provider. However, there are compliance issues in areas such as rental default, property care and behaviour that are controllable by the tenants themselves. Other types of non-compliance, such as restricting access for inspections, illegal sub-letting or uncontrollable pets, all create pain for the housing provider.
But what about the good guys?
Logic dictates that it must be inevitable that the good tenants suffer because of the behaviour of the minority. If such resources are spent on dealing with ‘non-compliance’, then less must inevitably be spent on rewarding the ‘responsible’ with better facilities. This means that the overall and theoretically symbiotic relationship of responsible tenants and responsible landlords is unfairly weighted.
All that is needed to help shift the balance back is to incentivise and positively reward compliance.
Until now, negative consequences have been the only answer to unwanted behaviour. In basic behavioural psychology, the essence of successful behaviour modification is to reward ‘the good’ and not to punish ‘the bad’. Now technology is available to positively modify behaviour and can be bolted on to any existing or new management platform.
Some housing providers have more choice than others regarding to whom they let properties, yet the costs of payment defaults, property damage, anti-social behaviour and evictions affect them too.
Better ways to assess tenants’ trustworthiness during the onboarding process are now available, with tenants being fully pre-qualified using wider data sets than the traditional ‘credit score’ based referencing. With ongoing access to data that the tenants themselves own, further safeguards come into play, such as instant and forensic authentication of ‘right to rent’ documents which combat the multitude of fakes available on the black market. Also, it’s now possible to have an early-warning system that detects any signs of sub-letting.
It has been proven many times by different housing providers that ‘empowerment through involvement’ creates more sense of responsibility and this results in significant cost savings. When you combine involvement with compliance rewards, the benefits become extremely significant. Empowering your tenants with their own smartphone and your branded app greatly improves communication and PR. Time- and location-stamped video technology allow the self-reporting of maintenance issues and the evaluation of repairs. It also allows self-inspections of smoke alarms or general property condition.
These measures are a time and cost saving for any housing provider while increasing preventative measures. The compliance and involvement in these areas can feed into an algorithm that will raise a tenant’s rating based on compliance, rental payments and neighbourly behaviour. The positive ratings for tenants encourage benefits, such as priority upgrades, extending contracts, right-to-buy, upward mobility, better credit ratings and any other reward the housing provider may inventively provide.
MyHomePassport, working with MIS Active Management Systems, has established that the balance of symbiosis can be restored by simply plugging this last piece into any cloud-based management system via an API.
So for clownfish and anemones alike, there is no longer a missing piece in the jigsaw, identifying and rewarding compliance is possible, and ‘empowerment with involvement’ saves costs as does a much improved onboarding process.
Dr Christopher Ford is the CEO and founder of MyHomePassport.