Sir – An increase in the proportion of private sales in mixed tenure blocks is driving demand for greater transparency and accuracy in service charges and estate management in the social housing sector.
While social housing tenants might typically pay a flat monthly rental charge which would include their service charges, private-sector leaseholders paying separate charges expect much greater detail about specific costs and proof of value for money. As private developments make up a growing proportion of homes built by housing associations, operators in the sector are finding they need to improve transparency and communication.
In addition, there are growing complexities in managing varying service charges within mixed tenure schemes. With private landlords, local authorities and housing associations often sitting alongside leasehold owner-occupiers and commercial tenants within a single estate, housing associations are increasingly subject to private-sector legislation and industry-body guidance from organisations such as RICS and ARMA.
Confusingly, all the legislation doesn’t apply to all leaseholders / tenants, with various aspects applying to just the private sector, some just the public sector and some to both. Similarly, residents are required to pay varying proportions of the service charges depending on their tenure, the type of property they live in and their specific contract. The need to apply VAT can also vary.
Consequently, housing associations are finding that their existing systems (which, for many, can be Excel spreadsheets) can’t manage their service charge processes accurately and in sufficient detail while also staying on the right side of regulations.
With their heavy focus on customer service, accuracy has become of paramount importance to housing associations. Due to the growing complexity of service charge management, regulations and the increased need for transparency in the sector, the systems and spreadsheets they’ve relied on so far may not be able to cope with the complexity required.
As a result, we are seeing a significant increase in demand from housing associations for software which can manage these situations; sometimes as a standalone solution or possibly linked to existing solutions.
Head of Marketing, Qube Global Software