Blog: Is it time for the social housing sector to get smarter about estate inspections?

Russell Young
Russell Young

‘Old habits die hard’ goes the expression and nowhere does this appear to be truer than in the area of estate inspections by social landlords. A recent HouseMark survey found that two thirds of social landlords still log their inspection reports manually on-site with pen and paper before transferring the data to a central system back at the office. At the recent Chartered Institute of Housing Scotland Festival, in Glasgow, one landlord told us they still use spreadsheets to record legally required annual gas safety inspections.

In the era of smartphones and tablets, it isn’t a very efficient or effective way to manage estate inspections. But there still seems to be a reluctance to do things differently – perhaps because of fears that relying too much on digital technology could leave you stranded if that technology breaks down.

However, having been around now for a number of years, it should be safe to assume that the technology has been tried and tested enough to be confident that this won’t happen. With that in mind, now would seem like a good time for organisations to reconsider their approach and to look more closely at the benefits of digital solutions across a range of areas of their business – including the management of estate inspections.

By making use of new mobile technology to record estate inspections on-site, we estimate that the average housing officer could save themselves at least two working days every three months – equivalent to around 60 hours per year.

By embracing the full capabilities of digital technology, the scope for social landlords to achieve big savings in both time and money is therefore significant. There are other important benefits to consider as well. Having in place a digital system of estate inspection reporting that updates in real time would make it much easier to keep tenants informed of the up-to the-minute status of maintenance and repairs.

It also offers the opportunity to benchmark performance systematically across different properties and against others in the sector. At a time when the emphasis on delivering value for money for tenants and the taxpayer is stronger than ever, using technology to make processes more efficient is no longer something that is ‘nice to do’ – it’s rapidly becoming business critical.

What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts on the use of new technologies in social housing and help you to find solutions.

  • Russell Young is data services manager at HouseMark Scotland.
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