Case Study: London Borough of Havering
Havering Council is one of the thirty-three London Boroughs. It is located in the far East of London straddling the border with Essex. Havering has around 10,000 council properties.
Arrears: from 2.15% (2015/16) to 1.76% (2016/17)
Caseload Reduction: 64% 5,151 down to 1,983
Evictions: from 58 to 38
Prior to using RentSense Havering relied on their HMS to create a weekly caseload for the income team. At the time it was a labour intensive process to create the caseload, which included running multiple reports, and it was apparent that the resulting list was inaccurate.
Havering’s Income Manager, Janis Robert-Edwards, was keen to improve the arrears process and help the income team with a detailed and more accurate caseload.
“It was a very manual system, and at that time I thought RentSense could help as I had attended a seminar where one landlord discussed at length their improving performance and validated this with detailed statistics. When asked how they did this their reply was. ‘We use RentSense, we could not have done this without it.’ And that got me thinking that RentSense could help us at Havering.”
Moreover, Havering’s income team at that time consisted of 26 officers but only 15 FTE, as there a number of part-time staff. However, they are not job shares, so the team is fragmented in that there will be different capacity each day, and it was important that a new and accurate caseload could be created for each officer which would enable them to quickly and efficiently work through their list.
Prior to deploying RentSense Havering’s weekly caseload for the team was just over 5,100 cases but RentSense recommends under 2,000 each week. The caseload reduction is significant, around 3,200 each week, but moreover the weekly caseload is now accurate
“We wanted RentSense to enable people to be able to focus more on the task at hand rather than waste time looking at cases that needed no action. RentSense cleverly filters the cases that need prioritising and it really does save officers a lot of time so that they can focus on the things that require attention.”
RentSense has enabled Havering to redeploy capacity from within the team to focus on working on live debt. Previously there was only one officer visiting across the borough, which took two weeks to work through, but with the additional capacity Janis has been able to re-assign duties throughout the department and now there are two officers responsible for visiting tenants which means that the workload can be completed within the week.
“This means more tenants get visited in the week which is really important,” explains Janis. “All areas of the borough are being visited in the one week, so we can tackle all the issues.”
Havering have recently reviewed their pre-court processes, with more analysis on cases before they being passed to court, so they see if there is an issue that needs resolving for the tenant. This tighter process coupled with RentSense flagging cases at their earliest stage of debt has helped the council reduce their evictions as well. In 2013/14 they evicted 58 but by 2016/17 this had dropped to 38, not only is keeping this more families in their homes but also reducing the cost of evictions for the council.
Prior to deploying RentSense there was very little insight into how the team was performing with their cases. Now there is an array of reports available to Havering that help identify how well the team and individuals are performing.
“RentSense is a really effective monitoring tool. I can now see what everyone is doing and actioning and it’s a system that I would not want to be without,” commented income team leader Andrea Ball, Senior Income Officer.
Havering Council has recently undergone a restructure which has seen a reduction in staff across the organisation. However, the council still pressed ahead with tough targets for the housing team to reduce their arrears, and by March 2017, Havering achieved a figure of 1.76%, which was the first time in the council’s history that arrears have been that low and below 2%. The arrears figures have reduced by over 18% in twelve months, as they were at 2.15% in March 2016, this is a saving of £221,387.
“This is a fantastic figure for the council, especially in light of welfare reform,” comments Janis. “RentSense has helped by alleviating the pressure on the income team and giving them the time to deal with the caseload.”
RentSense has helped Havering improve their collection rate, in the financial year 2016/17, to over 100%.
“At the council we have a policy of not writing off current tenant debt, so the reduction in arrears is not from debt write offs, it’s from improving collections,” explains Janis.
When asked if Havering would recommend RentSense to other landlords Janis is unanimous in her response.
“Yes, it’s a great help. I remember from my time as an income officer, the hardest thing for an income officer is to get through their weekly caseload. By the time you get to the end of it, weeks later, you dread going back to the start, that’s why RentSense is so helpful, it gets rid of that issue.”