It’s been another busy year in the Customer Services team, and we have seen quite a few changes, both within the team structure and the things we are responsible for.
We are the first point of contact for our tenants and residents and we help with all the queries they may have about their tenancy or home. This includes greeting visitors for Mid-Wales Housing and other businesses within the building and notifying staff about visitors. We liaise with various teams within Mid-Wales Housing and external agencies to enable us to resolve issues our tenants may be experiencing. We extended the opening hours of the phone lines and reception to start from 8am daily instead of 9am. This has proved successful and calls and visitors are increasing as word spreads.
In 2017/2018 the Customer Services Team processed 21,119 incoming calls which has increased by 936 since the last financial year. As a team, we spent 1,403 hours on inward calls alone and again, this has increased by 121 hours. Reporting repairs still makes up the largest proportion, followed by rent payments and general enquiries.
This is another big part of what we do in Customer Services and we help to manage the applications process and with allocating tenants into their new properties. We work in partnership with local councils to manage the waiting lists to ensure that applicants are allocated and found a new home in a timely manner. We work with other teams and our contractors to ensure the vacant property is ready for the new resident(s), as soon as possible.
During 2017/2018 we helped to let 150 empty properties, of which 11 were new properties at Walker’s Meadow in Presteigne. The remaining 139 were general needs with six being in Ceredigion and 133 in Powys. (This does not include any mutual exchanges, supported housing schemes and retirement leasehold schemes).
There are a few new build developments that have come to fruition and also nearing completion – Tabernacle in Aberystwyth, Glan-y-Dwr and Cwrt Cei Coed in Newtown. The Customer Services team plays a big part in all the groundwork that goes on before a new development is started – to give an overview of demand for properties in the area that is to be developed. While the development is being built we look for tenants, and allocate properties alongside the Community Housing team. Once the development is completed, information packs about the new home are prepared, tenancy agreements are produced and the details of all the new tenants are stored onto our systems.
A big thank you to all our residents who paid their rent and service charges up to date during this year, 73% of residents were paid up to date and more residents are taking advantage of the payments in advance scheme every week.
The Welfare Benefit Advisor works closely within the team to visit those residents who are having difficulty paying their rent in order to maximise incomes and reduce arrears. Not all residents struggling to pay their rent are in arrears and the Welfare Benefit Advisor contacted 453 residents last year to help with benefit applications, obtaining £217,336.88 in extra income for residents.
The overall debt to the Association for current tenants, owner-occupiers and former tenants at the end of the financial year was £398,298. This figure shows a slight rise of £1,934 from last year during a year where the Welfare Benefit Reforms have continued to be introduced to more residents.
Current and former tenant debt owed to the Association
The Association obtained 28 Court Orders for Possession of property for non-payment of rent last financial year of which only 2 resulted in evictions.
The team work hard with residents experiencing financial difficulties to try to find a solution that enables them to repay the debt to the Association whilst managing to afford other costs. We regularly work out a payment plan and a method of payment that suits individual circumstances and work with other agencies to try to get financial help for residents.
The preferred method of rent and service charge payments is by Direct Debit. At the start of the year 1172 payments per month were made, and by the end of the year this had risen to 1295 payments per month.
We look forward to working together with our customers during 2018-2019, when Universal Credit is due to be rolled out to all areas.
I have been struggling lately with finances and other things through life, and because of this I have buried my head in the sand. I found the Income Management Team so kind and easy to talk to. It was hectic with my children at home when the Welfare Benefit Advisor came, but she was patient and kind to me and my children. Thank you.