Looking down a staircase with a person walking down

Making Sovereign homes, safer homes

By Natasha Greenwood, Head of Home Ownership
First published by HQN

Following the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, how landlords listen, understand and respond to customer need has been at the top of the agenda when it comes to ensuring safety and rebuilding trust.

We want customers to feel safe in their homes, so by extension we also want the management companies and agents we work with to take on the same responsibilities – as well as being sure that they are carrying out their legal duties.

Effective assurance relies on good quality data, effective systems and robust processes and at Sovereign - as well as managing our own properties - we also work with 557 management companies and 150 managing agents, which deliver services to approximately 11,000 of our properties, across 242 blocks. This includes schemes, blocks and communal areas managed by a third-party management companies or agents.

Our relationships with these organisations and individuals are, at times, extremely complex, with entrenched legal hierarchies that result in us having varying and limited rights to information and documentation. For example:

  • Where we are not the freeholder and do not have the right to receive or inspect documentation, or
  • Where we are not the owner of the building, our legal relationship is as a leaseholder. Here we do not have the right to receive any documentation other than buildings insurance and service charge information.

Traditionally these relationships have been managed on a case-by-case basis, but in order to make meaningful headway in our drive for big picture data-led compliance we realised that we needed to consolidate our cross tenure management company and managing agent related activities.

A new central team sitting within Homeownership was created and as soon as the team was up and running, we undertook detailed analysis to understand what was required from us. In consolidating these activities, we built on our existing leasehold management and compliance expertise, while also joining up all the associated financial activities for management companies and 3rd party agents

It was essential that we:

  • Understood where - geographically - we operate with management companies
  • Understood how - historically - we had worked with management companies
  • Were clear on what the management companies’ responsibilities were regarding health and safety  
  • Could demonstrate that management companies and agents had met their legal responsibilities as the ‘responsible person’

The relationship with management companies is complex and difficult to navigate and the scale of our operation is considerable. For example, in 2018/19 we received invoices totalling £1.6m - and this financial year we’re predicting that this figure will exceed £3.6m.

To give an idea of the scale of work handled by our new team, to date, this year, we’ve processed over 6,000 invoices, issued 1,200 credit notes, separated eligible and ineligible costs and apportioned cost.

So what’s next? Well, we’re certainly not complacent, and will continue to improve our data governance and performance reporting capability, feeding into a modern service delivery model that delivers consistent high-quality services to our customers. Using a ‘BI’ - business intelligence – platform we will be able to see our data laid out simply and accurately and use it to further develop our requirements for health and safety compliance and to effectively manage the risks to our income streams.

Above all, we want our customers to know that we want to make Sovereign homes safer homes and that we – and our management partners – are working our hardest to meet their expectations.