ROCC looks at why it is important to manage voids efficiently, and how organisations can effectively utilise software that has a focus on repairs and maintenance to help manage empty homes
Voids in most cases are simply unavoidable and most organisations already plan and budget for the costs that voids incur. However what you cannot predict is how long it would take to get a new resident into the property, with some organisations reporting that it can take up to 4 months to find a new tenant and when this isn’t taken into consideration, can have a huge financial impact.
And with the pandemic still in full swing, void turnaround times have not exactly decreased.
In an ideal world, housing providers would like none of their properties to be voids. The reality is that the amount of empty homes represents around 3% of the total housing stock in England. Across the UK, the amount of empty properties is rising at around 2-5% per year.
Someone out there without a home is not the only impact that empty properties have; they can attract antisocial behaviour, squatting, fly tipping, pests and even damp.
Why is it important to manage voids efficiently
Long-term voids can negatively affect the surrounding neighbourhood as they can attract unwanted behaviour. By ensuring the properties are not left empty for too long ensure that neighbourhoods become more sustainable.
Effective Asset Management
Void properties that are kept in good condition are vital to ensure your assets remain habitable which will ultimately result in less dilapidation costs and higher customer satisfaction.
Resident wait times
Ensuring residents don’t have to wait too long cam have a great impact on customer satisfaction and with a well maintained home, they can get off to a great start.
Reducing the lack of revenue
Voids = no rent, so by reducing the time it takes and making sure everything is done in an efficient and timely manner means reducing the time without revenue.
“Voids aren’t just one job as they can incorporate a lot of different work from gas checks, to damage repair and even just generic cleaning”
Ways to help efficiently manage voids
As we all know, voids are quite complex which is even more reason to ensure that your organisation are managing voids in the most efficient way possible. Voids aren’t just one job as they can incorporate a lot of different work from gas checks, to damage repair and even just generic cleaning.
That is why Void planning is still very manual, and to be honest, no software currently exists that will completely automate this process. But that’s okay, because there are so many other ways to effectively manage voids.
Starting with the voids team. You need to make sure that you have the right people in the team to make sure the property is fit and ready for a new resident, and this means having multi-trade teams. This will make the entire process much easier, and it will be even easier if the team is ready to go on the day needed.
Additionally it’s not always possible but having an in-house team will allow for easier and clearer planning, and in terms of COVID-19, can benefit from following one policy as opposed to several contractors operating under different policies such as different requirements for social distancing etc.
Next is something many organisations have in place, the pre-void inspection, this will give the organisation a good idea of the work that needs to be done and also what would be the tenant responsibility or the organisations responsibility. Now this inspection isn’t going to tell you absolutely everything that needs to be done, but you’ll be in a better place to start as soon as that person vacates the property.
Another suggestion is to focus on voids in certain areas, especially areas that have high resident interest. For example if you have one flat in a popular area that you are certain will have interest within a month, it would be better to focus on this property than a rural property that may take longer to find a tenant.
This will ensure that out of 2 properties, 1 will at least generate rent rather than 2 properties not generating rent for a longer time.
Finally another great way to improve void turnaround time, is to give new tenants decoration vouchers. So instead of requiring a painter to paint the walls, you would provide the resident with vouchers to purchase materials and decorate the property themselves.
Not only does this reduce labour required, but can increase customer satisfaction as your tenants can now decorate their new home to their liking.
Ways you can utilise software to manage voids
Having software which has a focus on repairs and maintenance, where all of your repairs and maintenance work is managed in one place, can be extremely useful when managing voids.
For example if you have access to see planned work, you can then take planned work into account. As an example if you know new light fittings will be fitted in every flat in that building, you can take that into consideration when planning void work.
The system that you use should also ensure that the housing team should be able to communicate with the voids team easily, and that teams should be able to communicate through the software itself without having to utilise another app for messaging. The system should also be able to partition jobs based on rules, with different trade different visits for planning.
As mentioned before pre-void inspections are a great way to help effectively manage voids, and pre inspections utilise software from the get go, but also importing pre void inspections automatically can be a great way to speed up the process.
Additionally by importing them it can feed into your repairs and maintenance module and inform you of the materials required, so the stores know exactly how much may be needed.
Additionally, Ensure pictures and videos can be taken and easily uploaded when the pre-void inspection is conducted, and have those available to the required operatives.
In addition to what has been mentioned, and as a further example of how software can help, there are systems that will include void inspection templates, where after the inspection, with the click of a button all jobs can be assigned and even create linked jobs that may be from different budgets. You could also utilise a void spec where items are mandatory and order void work by rooms.
Finally, make sure you utilise a business intelligence platform, which comes in handy not just for managing voids, but for getting ahead of all your organisation’s KPIs. With the right business intelligence platform you will be able to instantly group up your voids data to review, or even have an entire dashboard dedicated to voids, so you can see how many current empty properties you have or how many jobs are outstanding.
Additionally, if your business intelligence platform has a predictive analytics module, you can also predict which properties will be more desirable with the click of a button.
Housing Digital Stakeholder ROCC are specialists in delivering smart innovative housing solutions. They provide organisations in the social housing sector with state-of-the-art solutions to streamline and optimise the repairs and maintenance process.
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.