Peabody Trust Housing Association
Image: Peabody Trust Housing Association

Housing heavyweights combine for PropertyLab

Major social housing players Peabody Trust, ForViva, Notting Hill Genesis and L&Q are among the stakeholders putting 400,000 homes towards a prototype for automating compliance processes.

Property management tech Plentific, along with partners AO Proptech and the Disruptive Innovators Network, have launched PropertyLab, an innovation programme focusing on simplifying the key aspects of the regulatory compliance process in the residential sector, first focusing on fire and gas safety. This will be followed by a session later in the year focusing on asset management and data. It aims to bring all aspects of compliance remediation – from testing electrical systems to gas servicing together in one place.

PropertyLab has already attracted many leading organisations to collaborate on the initial research and development phase. With a combined portfolio of 400,000 homes, the first phase of the programme is set to make a big impact on the compliance industry across the residential sector. Stakeholders include Peabody Trust, Hull City Council, Golden Lane Housing, Richmond Housing Partnership, ForViva, Asper, Notting Hill Genesis, L&Q, Karbon Homes and Believe Housing.

At present, individual aspects of the compliance process are often managed through multiple managers and contractors, all of whom use a variety of systems and documents to manage the process. As a result, landlords often find themselves unable to get a full picture of their compliance risk, or to be sure that all remediation work, and the safety of their tenants, is guaranteed.

PropertyLab aims to develop a single standardised platform to bring together and automate all aspects of the compliance process. It will aggregate all data into one place to increase efficiency in delivering regulatory obligations, but also greatly enhance transparency and reporting for both landlords and tenants. In practice, PropertyLab will facilitate the implementation of high priority actions from regulatory reports automatically. PropertyLab will consider ways to empower tenants to take more control, for example by directly booking gas servicing appointments without needing to arrange through the landlord.

The development of PropertyLab will follow four steps over the next 14 weeks, with the initial phase focusing on intensive research in collaboration with all stakeholders to ensure that it meets all of the key priorities of landlords, housing associations and local authorities. A first workshop will commence in April to enable the group to work collaboratively in identifying the strategic priorities around compliance that will drive the project forward, and a benchmarking report published afterwards. Following further development, PropertyLab is expected to be delivered in the summer.

Cem Savas, CEO and co-founder of Plentific, said: “There is clear market demand for a standardised solution around compliance. Currently, there is no single system for managing compliance across the housing sector. Important activity often sits between multiple teams, from the contractor to the housing manager, with data on issues and fixes recorded in a variety of different ways. This approach can lead to delays, inefficiency and missed deadlines.

“Working collaboratively with landlords, Plentific is driving forward change and innovation. We are changing the way the sector thinks and acts, which will ultimately result in a streamlined compliance process and save costs.”

Tom Way, strategy manager at L&Q, said: “Coming together to build a new product to ultimately improve the compliance process will make a huge difference to L&Q and other residential property managers. To really become more efficient, we all need to ensure we are travelling in the right direction and we aren’t duplicating our efforts when it comes to streamlining our processes.

“Taking a collaborative approach allows us to step back and prioritise what needs to be addressed and how we can take the necessary action to make an effective change. By next year, we want all of the partners involved with PropertyLab to be proud of the changes we have made together – which will ultimately benefit all our tenants living in the homes we manage.”

Andy Isted, head of business development at Peabody, said: “This represents an opportunity for the sector to work with an innovative organisation to shape and develop a new approach to delivering our compliance responsibilities as landlords. Working alongside other housing associations with the same challenges, but with an open-mind to innovation will enable us to develop significant opportunities for improvement across the sector for the future.”

Elly Hoult, group director assets, NHG, said: “There is a gap in the market to improve and streamline compliance systems – which is why we’ve signed up to be part of PropertyLab. Many processes are over-complicated and as a group we’ll be looking for ways we can make them more efficient and less time consuming.

“We’ve worked with Plentific in the past and found the team to be flexible, collaborative and enthusiastic. We’re looking forward to driving this forward together.”

PropertyLab is expected to demo the design prototype in June 2020.

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