Not too long ago I attended and spoke at a small seminar on Gas Compliance and was staggered at some of the safety issues that exist in general, but also in relation to the social housing sector specifically and the challenges imposed on landlords.
This then got me thinking about compliance in general and how the sector looks at this. The statistics are staggering and the risks high, yet some landlords aren’t looking at it seriously enough. This isn’t borne just out of what people were saying at the event but also my own experience in talking to and working with landlords themselves.
I’ll begin with the issues facing landlords and then take a look from the other side of the fence at those tasked with providing solutions to help landlords.
Issues landlords face
Legislation: Ever changing and complicated, it’s not only hard to navigate but incredibly important this is dealt with properly. The accountability of a landlord to deliver processes and solutions in compliance is high and the legislation is there for a reason: to keep your tenants safe and you as a landlord covered!
Evidence: How does a landlord evidence what’s being done in the area of compliance? To evidence activity, it needs to be simple and cost effective but also needs to be watertight (no pun intended). When looking at control and ensuring you can evidence what’s been done, there are a few critical areas to be considered: data, and the need to have the highest possible quality of data; and to make sure it’s secure and follows legislation is critical these days. Ignore it at your peril. Process mapping and understanding who does what is another.
Change: Change is never easy. One fact of business is that a great deal of folks don’t like change. So, change needs to be controlled and documented. It can be a powerful area if you get it right. But it can also be the main difference to winning hearts and minds. Use change management sensibly.
Cost: It had to be mentioned, didn’t it! We don’t have bottomless pockets, so the need to be ever cost effective is obvious, but evidence the spend. We are big fans of looking at return on investment, and in many solutions the investment can be very much worth it, bringing cost savings.
Systems integration and architecture: From a systems perspective it’s so important to ensure that the systems you use work seamlessly together. This isn’t just important from the perspective of data as we mentioned earlier, but also to ensure that you can have a productive set of processes that are implemented thought your software. If you have separated/siloed systems, you’ll suffer and so will your tenants.
Now that we’ve identified the issues landlords face, it’s worth looking at some traditional blockers that exist.
On occasion we come across what we refer to as legacy and the many attempts to hold on to it. How many times have you heard folks say, ‘We have always done it that way’?
When you look at this in a little more detail, we simplify it into:
People and behaviour: Going back to that ‘We have always done it that way’ and people don’t like change comment, it starts to make sense. People and their nature like comfort, and when you take them out of that comfort zone it’s, well, uncomfortable. So, the trick is to make it as comfortable as possible. That’s another article altogether, but you get the point: it doesn’t need to be awkward.
Ownership: Sometimes it seems near impossible to work out who’s in charge. Who’s responsible for delivering compliance within a housing provider? It’s not the easiest thing to identify. And herein lies a common issue. You need accountability.
Resource: Accountability is key, and who does what is another. But if you’re to look at how you carry out compliance improvements, or general day-to-day management of compliance, who does it? Can you seriously do it with who you have, or if you are to up your level of compliance management, do you need to recruit or reorganise?
What tends to happen?
Spreadsheets: We simply can’t escape them. We know they exist. We have seen asbestos managed purely on spreadsheets. Legionella as well. I can’t imagine there’d be many hands raised if we asked who thought this was a good idea.
Responsive/Reactive in nature: When it comes to process, there are many landlords we come across who tend to wait for something to break before fixing it. Imagine if you could predict and get to the issue before it happens. It makes sense, cost is reduced, efficiency is increased, and dare we say dangers reduced and safety increased. Software and technology can help, yet the take up is not as high as it should be.
Not enough questions: When we look at software and process-driven solutions in relation to compliance, sometimes the needed questions are missed or simply avoided. Some key questions to ask are:
Do we feel we are we on top of this? Do we ensure evidence through proper data management and systems control? Are we allowing transparency in the use of systems?
These are only a few necessary questions, but the point is that questions should be asked. Just because you always did it that way, does not mean it’s the best way to continue.
The way forward
Technology is key. In every other aspect of business, in every other sector, we’d see software services deliver solutions in such areas. There are many solutions available to social housing, so if we address some of the basics above, and we look at the solutions available, perhaps complacencies in compliance can be reduced. We can, rather simply, if effort is made:
- Get the process right
- Understand who does what, especially accountability
- Understand the role of data
- Work out how to make it all that bit more transparent…
- …and how the evidence that you’re doing the right thing is visible
- Make sure you have the right software. This is really just an observation and a train of thought, but I’m sure you’ll agree that when it comes to safety and compliance, it cannot be ignored.