How software is tackling the compliance challenge


With social landlords under increasing pressure to improve housing compliance, Dave Carr from Propeller explains the role of software in overhauling safety checks and meeting RSH standards

A new regulation, enforced in April 2024, has put housing safety compliance under the microscope leaving local authorities and housing associations with no place to hide.

The Social Housing Act sees the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH) take a more proactive role, including regular and stringent inspections of social landlords. Safety and transparency are being brought into sharp focus and the RSH has stronger powers to hold landlords to account.

Although many social landlords have got better at managing housing safety compliance in recent years, these changes will create additional pressures and have already seen some self-referring to the RSH.

Addressing compliance pitfalls

One of the biggest challenges for housing providers is managing inspection processes for gas, electrical, legionella, asbestos and fire safety across thousands of homes. Details of these checks are often collated using manual methods such as spreadsheets. Not only is this time consuming but prone to user error risking key information being omitted.

For larger social landlords, another challenge is keeping track of the total number of homes owned or managed – and exactly what types of checks are required for each. Gaps in this data will inevitably lead to inadequate inspection processes and non compliance with RSH standards.

Cloud-based software is critical to overcoming these challenges, providing housing providers with a quick and effective tool for managing all areas of housing compliance. With the right technology, new systems can be implemented without the need to integrate with existing IT programmes or the support of an internal IT department.

A streamlined approach

The first step is to gather robust baseline data which often requires an in-depth review of a housing provider’s property register. This can be achieved with the support of a specialist housing consultant who can help to establish the types of checks required for each home and how frequently. The latest inspection schedules and associated documentation will also be assimilated to help identify any gaps.

Once this data has been collated, cloud-based software can digitally analyse the information providing an instant view of compliance. The results are presented on an interactive dashboard comprising easy-to-read charts. These visuals break down the percentage of properties with an overdue or missing safety check so any issues can be quickly identified and measures put in place to rectify them.

Only minimal training is required for in-house teams, enabling housing providers to easily update the dashboard. The number of checks being carried out, and the level of compliance across each area, can then be viewed and monitored in real time.

For social landlords which have self referred to the Regulator, the dashboard also enables them to demonstrate how they are proactively responding to any issues identified and progressing towards achieving compliance. Not only does this help to minimise reputational damage but the risk of potentially punitive measures.

Transforming processes

South Kesteven District Council (SKDC) is one example of a local authority which has benefited from cloud-based software. In 2020, the council commissioned an audit that identified key areas of work required to meet the Regulator’s Home Standard. Based on the findings, the Council referred itself to the Regulator and in February 2021, was issued with a Regulatory Notice.

To support the improvement process, a comprehensive action plan was implemented to tackle areas of concern which mainly related to inspection processes and awareness of the overall condition of housing stock. SKDC also strengthened its senior housing team and reformed its processes for compliance with the Home Standard to ensure important safety checks were carried out.

As part of the action plan, SKDC adopted cloud-based software to help it overhaul the way it managed compliance safety checks for gas, electrical, legionella, asbestos and fire safety. Details of these checks and associated servicing requirements were previously collated and maintained using excel spreadsheets. With circa 6,000 homes in its portfolio, SKDC recognised the need for a more robust and efficient system giving them greater control of compliance.

The Council worked with specialist consultancy Manifest to analyse its existing housing stock and collate the data required to feed into the software for analysis. Through an online dashboard, the technology provided a clear picture of compliance, ensuring SKDC could understand its servicing needs and provide assurance on safety as part of its wider action plan.

Combined with other improvements and new ways of working adopted by SKDC, the software’s swift implementation helped the Council gradually move towards compliance. While under regulatory notice, the dashboard was also used to provide real time evidence of this progress to the RSH.

In October 2023, SKDC’s housing service was given the all-clear by the RSH.

Turning the tide

At a time of great change for the housing sector, which rightly puts resident and building safety front and centre, software can play a vital role in compliance. Ensuring there is a single transparent view of regular compliance activities underpins good building safety management and will help housing providers of all sizes meet RSH standards.

Dave Carr is managing director of Propeller