COVID-19 has hugely impacted our lives. But, there have been some positives. Namely, an increase in our sense of togetherness and community spirit as well as the support we’ve shown for our key workers and vulnerable citizens.
This positivity also extends to the housing sector where we’ve seen a change in the relationship between landlords and tenants. But, not just this. The impact and subsequent importance of these relationships is increasingly becoming more obvious – not only in day-to-day processes but also the future of housing associations.
So, what exactly has changed? And why should you care?
The impact of COVID-19
Engagement and support are already key pillars in most social housing associations. However, recent months have put a greater emphasis on the landlord-tenant relationship, specifically around how to communicate with tenants during the enforcement of COVID-19 measures.
Emergency legislation during the pandemic forced a number of landlords to adapt their services – both in an attempt to protect their tenants and themselves. Specifically in rent collection strategies, approaches are moving away from debt recovery and towards support provision.
We first recognised this change while speaking to a group of senior social housing professionals for our research report: ‘Reaction, Recovery, Resilience: How the pandemic has impacted the social housing sector.’
Exploring the impact, challenges and opportunities that COVID-19 has presented to the sector, we heard from a select group of industry leaders about what they were doing to recover and build resilience. From these conversations, one clear priority emerged: proactive engagement to ensure tenants were sufficiently supported.
Why invest in tenant relationships?
Regular support-based engagement not only has a beneficial impact on tenants but has the ability to positively modify and maintain the relationship between landlords and tenants. For example, at a time when many tenants may be struggling, the increased emphasis on togetherness and support could have lasting effects beyond the current epidemic.
Research has suggested that when there is a positive relationship between landlords and tenants, tenants are more likely to feel they have been treated fairly. This perception of fairness has an important impact on income collection. For starters, tenants are more likely to accept decisions made by organisations, show greater compliance and behave in a more cooperative manner.
“The better your support, the better your collection rates. It is in everybody’s benefit to support our customers.” Karl Maple, Network Homes.
A positive relationship also helps tenants to feel secure about their tenancy agreement. This creates a dynamic relationship where tenants show greater trust in the organisation which further encourages cooperative behaviours.
In contrast, negative relationships [LINK: How to engage with tenants] can cause tenants to feel like they have been treated unfairly, feel excluded and exploited. This can manifest in ‘vendetta’ behaviours against the organisations which they believe to have treated them in this way. Furthermore, positive landlord-tenant relationships can help landlords understand tenant’s preferences and support the prevention and management of rent arrears.
The impact on social housing services
When care has been taken to nurture relationships there is an increased likelihood of payments being made on time. Plus, when tenants feel that they can inform their landlords of any specific challenges or changes in their circumstances – without repercussions – providers are able to take proactive steps to mitigate potential arrears [LINK TO GUIDE: Arrears Arrangements – How To Approach Them In A Post-COVID World].
Positive relationships can also ensure that tenants are more willing to offer timely access for safety inspections. Not to mention, fostering a culture where tenants get in touch when problems or difficulties arise within their property.
And this really is just the start. At Voicescape, we’ve been combining behavioural insights, data science and technology for years to deliver evidence-based solutions that enable social landlords to build sustainable tenancies. Want to find out more about our approach? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0161 259 1122.