Alongside their main task of providing thousands of affordable homes to tenants across the country, housing providers also have responsibility for maintaining the safety and habitability of each property in their portfolio.
Every single property managed needs a valid gas and electricity certificate, as well as risk assessments and other safety documentation. The information is by no means static; certificates expire, new documents are issued, and maintenance work is requested or completed. All this information needs to be kept up to date and communicated with tenants.
Tenant safety is the priority, so invalid certificates or missed risk assessments could lead to serious repercussions such as heavy fines or even jail time for those culpable.
With so much at stake and so much information to manage and process, how are housing providers taking on this mammoth task and meeting the needs of residents? Quite well, actually.
Moving away from the manual, cumbersome approaches often associated with managing safety certificates, housing providers are investing in technology, enabling them to automate manual processes and making accessing and collating information much easier. The benefits mean staff are no longer forced to spend hours searching across numerous folders and siloed systems to locate the necessary information needed to ensure compliance.
Some organisations are going a step further by investing in intelligent information management (IIM) systems. This enables the creation of automated workflows, so that staff can keep track of approvals, control permissions and access to information, and send reminders to make sure tasks are completed. Setting up workflows for gas or safety checks, for example, means housing providers are now creating assignments 30, 60 or 90 days before they’re due to expire. This gives staff a much more holistic view over safety certificate renewal dates across all their properties. This reduces the risk of financial penalties (and more importantly, the risk against tenant safety) because staff can collate information instantly, satisfying regulators, freeing them to add further value and support for tenants.
Not only are housing providers using technology to support regulatory compliance, they are also using it to satisfy the ‘citizen consumer’ who expects high levels of information transparency and flexibility.
The safety of social housing has been under increased oversight in recent years and tenants are becoming more proactive in understanding and wanting to see information relating to the safety of their property, such as gas, electricity and fire safety certificates. This also extends to information about previous refurbishments carried out in the property or access to their tenancy agreement.
An intuitive approach
Intelligent information management platforms enable organisations to describe ‘what’ a piece of information is rather than having to decide ‘where’ to store it. This more intuitive approach to storing and managing information makes it faster and easier to source any information requested by a tenant or other party. For staff, greater time savings, improved efficiency and heightened productivity are readily seen but this ease-of-access to information also transcends to tenants; information is shared quicker and processing times are reduced.
When you consider the challenges facing housing providers, such as needing to maintain compliance for a multitude of regulations, but also responding to reduced government funding as well as changing demographic needs, you can’t help but be impressed. As a sector it continues to innovate in its ability to automate manual processes, providing tenants with enhanced customer experience and ensuring their safety.
Simon Godfrey is a senior account executive at M-Files.