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 within the social housing sector, reports Qube Global Software. The company has seen a fourfold increase in enquiries from Housing Associations over the last year.
Where typical social housing tenants might pay a flat monthly rental charge including 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 across the board.
In addition, there are growing complexities in managing varying service charges within mixed tenure schemes. With private, Local Authority and Housing Association landlords often sitting alongside leasehold owner occupiers and commercial tenants in one estate, developing Housing Associations are increasingly subject to private sector legislation and industry body guidance from organisations such as RICS and ARMA.
Confusingly, all the legislation does not 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 reside in and their specific contract. The need to apply VAT can also vary.
Consequently, Housing Associations are finding that their existing systems (which, for these organisations, can be Excel spreadsheets) are unable to manage their service charge processes accurately and in enough detail, while also staying on the right side of regulation.
James Lavery, Head of Marketing at Qube Global Software, said: “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, regulation and the increased need for transparency within the sector, the systems and spreadsheets they’ve relied upon so far may not be able to cope with the complexity required. We are seeing a significant increase in demand within this sector for software systems which can manage these situations, sometimes as a standalone solution or possibly linked to existing software solutions.”
Philip Marns at Hanover Housing, a Qube PM user which manages approximately 19,000 properties for rent and shared ownership across the UK, added: “Our customers are now receiving statements that show exactly how the cost is derived from the estate budget, so it is easy for them to see exactly what they’re being charged for. This is very important for engendering confidence.”